ST. PETERSBURG – After going into halftime with the lead, Florida Tech was unable to overcome Eckerd College’s second-half surge and the Panthers fell to the Tritons, 87-77, in SSC action at the McArthur Center.
The win is Eckerd’s second over Florida Tech this season after winning the first meeting, 84-63, on Dec. 1 at the Clemente Center.
Four starters scored in double figures for the Panthers. Derek Murphy was one rebound shy of posting his third straight double-double, ending the game with 18 points, nine boards, and three assists. Sesan Russell also scored 18 points in addition to collecting six rebounds, two steals, and two assists. Trey Schaneville and Antonis Pefanis each recorded 11 points and three rebounds.
Threes by Murphy and Schaneville helped Florida Tech grab a 7-3 advantage a few minutes into the game. Eckerd got back into the game and tied it up at 12-12 on a lay-in by Armin Radoncic with 12:53 to go in the first half.
Schaneville’s second three-pointer of the contest handed Tech a 16-12 lead with 12:06 remaining in the first. However, the Tritons proceeded to outscore the Panthers 18-2 and corral a 30-18 edge with 6:48 to go before halftime.
The Panthers answered with their own 15-0 run, which included eight consecutive points by Valsson, and jumped into the lead, 33-30, with 1:57 left. A pair of last-minute free throws by Jordan gave Tech a 35-32 advantage at the break.
Eckerd knocked down the first three baskets of the second half and regained a four-point advantage, 39-35, with 16:38 to go.
After EC took a 48-43 lead, Murphy hit his second three of the game and Nieja Jordan added a layup, and the score was tied at 48-48 with just over 11 minutes remaining.
Poor shooting and turnovers by Florida Tech facilitated the run that changed the game for the Eckerd as the Tritons proceeded to outscore the Panthers, 25-9, and jump out to a 73-57 advantage with 4:24 left.
Despite their attempts to come back, the Panthers were unable to get the margin down to single-digits the remainder of the contest and fell to Eckerd for the second time this season. Florida Tech has now lost five straight in the series with EC dating back to the 2016-17 season.
The Panthers shot well in the game, going 23-of-50 (.460) from the field, 12-of-29 (.414) beyond the arc, and 19-of-28 (.680) at the free throw line, despite going 8-of-10 on free throws in the first half. EC finished the game shooting 35-of-72 (.486), including 9-of-23 (.391) on three-pointers, and 8-of-14 from the charity stripe (.571).
Eckerd ended with a significant advantage in rebounding, 46-27. The Tritons’ domination of the offensive glass, 20-6, led to 20 second-chance points for the home squad. EC outscored Tech, 46-18, in the paint, while also earning a 25-11 edge in bench points.
Florida Tech will have a one-week layoff before returning to its home floor on Saturday, Feb. 2, for the Panthers’ second matchup against SSC rival Barry this season. The Bucs won the first meeting, 95-68, in Miami Shores. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at the Clemente Center.
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