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Panthers Stun No. 25 Barry in SSC Clash

Header pic: Sean Houpt – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics

The Florida Tech Panthers pulled off a huge upset Wednesday night, beating the 25th-ranked team in the country in the Barry Buccaneers 70-67 at the Clemente Center in Melbourne.

Barry (16-6, 11-6 SSC) averages 92 points a game this season and the 67 they scored against the Panthers is a season-low.

“I am one very happy coach and very proud of this team,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims by phone after the game. It has been key C’s for us this season. I said it was Covid and concussions that brought us down but the character of these kids brought us up.”

“Guys followed the game plan and our defense was the difference,” Mims continued. “I really want to tip my hat to the coaching staff, they complement each other and they have done a great job in preparation. Even the guys who didn’t play were a part of this win, they were Barry in practice. They prepared us for everything we saw tonight and they won this game as much as the guys who played. Every guy on this team is doing their job.”

The Panthers (11-11, 5-12 SSC) finished the game on a 7-0 run over the final 2:54 including a huge three by Sean Houpt off a steal by Niall Harris with 1:12 left. 

Houpt was named Player of the Game and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. He was 5-for-13 on threes. Harris had a great game that included 16 points, five assists, and five rebounds.

“Sean is a tough, physical, smart player,” said Mims. I coached his dad during my career and when Sean left Bradley we had a shot at him and I am really glad that his dad trusted me to coach his son.” 

Runako Ziegler and Sesan Russell each had 10 points for the Panthers, with Ziegler pulling down seven rebounds and Russell three.

Florida Tech was 24-for-66 from the field, shooting 36.4 percent. The difference in this game came from long range as the Panthers drained 10 of their 33 attempted threes, good for 30.3 percent. They were good from the charity stripe as well, going 12-for-16 (75 percent).

Jake Kakar had the first three of the game, which was answered a short time later by Ziegler and it was 9-7 Barry. Houpt turned the score around to 10-9 with his three. After another Kakar three made it 15-12 and a free throw made it a four-point game. Florida Tech answered with a 7-0 run and led 19-16.

The teams went back-and-forth for a stretch before Russell hit a three to make it 29-25 Tech with 6:38 left. Harris hit a three with 4:44 to go and it was 34-30 Panthers. 

Harris would hit two free throws more than a minute later, giving the Panthers a 36-34 lead. Barry would answer and it was tied at 36.

Russell would score with 2:30 left and Ziegler knocked down two free throws to put the Panthers up 40-36. A Houpt three with 1:0 left was followed by a layup by Harris to make it 43-38. Barry got a bucket late to cut the lead to five, heading to the locker room.

Kakar made four threes in the first half for Barry and those were the only threes they would have the rest of the night. The visitors were 0-for-6 from deep in the second half.

“We tried to rest our guards and rotate Josh Mims and Elias Martin in to concentrate on Kakar and (Nick) Anderson,” Mims said. “He’s their leading three-point shooter with 60 some threes off the bench this year. He was 0-for-1 couldn’t get a good look.”

Barry took the lead 46-45 to start the second half thanks to a 6-0 run. Martin’s basket broke that streak, but a shot by Kakar gave the Bucs a 50-49 lead with 15:35 left. Barry scored four straight to go up 54049, but Mims drained a big three to close the gap to two with 13:50 to go.

There was a stretch with no points for either side, but Houpt came up big again with another three to give the Panthers a 55-54  lead. A dunk by Kakar would give Barry a 61-57 lead, but Ziegler’s three made it 61-60 with 9:02 left. Both teams struggled a bit and Barry made the only two baskets and took a 65-60 lead with 5:21 left.

That’s when the Panthers took over. The Panthers went on a 10-2 run that included three free throws and two consecutive threes by Houpt. The Panthers led 70-67 with 11 seconds left. Barry had one last chance, but Martin blocked a shot in the lane right at the basket. Martin had three blocks in the game, none bigger than that.

The next Barry shot didn’t stand a chance, and the Panthers hung on for their biggest win of the season.

For more info: Barry @ Florida Tech Box Score

The Panthers have now beaten Lynn on the road and Barry at home. They will look to extend their winning streak to three on Saturday when they travel to Tampa to take on the Spartans at 4:00 p.m.