Panthers 2019 record: 2-2
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Florida Tech has now won two in a row after the Panthers took down Puerto Rico-Bayamon by the score 81-63 on Saturday evening at the Clemente Center.
Tech improves to 2-2 on the year while UPRB drops to 1-1.
Sesan Russell had another great performance for the Panthers, finishing with 24 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six steals and three rebounds. Russell, who went 9-of-9 from the free-throw line tonight, has now scored more than 20 points in all four games this season.
Russell leads the Sunshine State Conference so far this year with 103 total points, a 25.8 scoring average and 22 made free throws.
Runako Ziegler recorded 12 points and three rebounds, while Antonis Pefanis posted 11 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists. Mate Papai added nine points and 11 rebounds.
“Very happy with Mate Papai’s performance tonight,” Mims stated. “This is really his first game of the season as he was hurt on the first play of our opener. He was out ever since but came back tonight with a huge game off the bench.”
The Panthers made 28-of-66 (42.4%) from the field and 19-of-26 (73.1) from the charity stripe but struggled from long distance making just 6-of-26 (23.1%).
Bayamon shot 21-of-68 (30.9%) overall, including 10-of-36 (27.8%) from beyond the arc, and made 11-of-18 (61.1%) from the line.
“I was really impressed with our defensive effort tonight,” said head coach Billy Mims.
“In the first half, we held Bayamon to 24% shooting and only 38% in the second half. That took a tremendous defensive effort throughout the game. I felt that we played well enough defensively to have a larger margin of victory but a lot of that credit goes to Bayamon for climbing their way back.”
Tech won the rebounding battle 49-36, including a 32-21 edge on the defensive glass. The Panthers dominated the paint 42-20 and scored 25 points off UPRB’s 20 turnovers. The Crimson & Gray also had a 14-2 advantage in fast break points.
Florida Tech got off to a fast start, scoring the first eight points and grabbing an 11-2 lead on a three-pointer by Russell just 2:09 into the game. Bayamon eventually came back to make it a two-point game, 17-15, following a trey by the Vaqueros’ Misael Rosado Colon with 12:15 to go in the first half.
However, Tech answered with a 7-0 run to get the margin to 24-15, and from there the offense got rolling. The Panthers went on to outscore Bayamon 22-11 the rest of the half and took a 46-26 advantage into halftime.
The momentum seemed to switch at halftime as the Vaqueros came out of the locker room with a different level of intensity. Bayamon was able to cut the deficit to just seven, 55-48, with 13 minutes still to go in the second half.
“Bayamon changed the tempo of the game in the second half and I give a lot of credit to their coach because it caused our offense to stall a bit,” stated Mims. “They started pressing full court and it affected our execution. We had more turnovers, sloppy turnovers, and it caused our offense to stall a bit.
TWO IN A ROW!! Tech takes down Bayamon to improve to 2-0 on its home court this season!
Russell – 24 pts, 6 stls, 3 reb
Ziegler – 12 pts, 3 reb
Pefanis – 11 pts, 8 reb, 3 stls, 3 asts
Papai – 9 pts, 11 reb pic.twitter.com/paZv5GTqZw
— Florida Tech Men’s Hoops (@FloridaTechMBB) November 17, 2019
“But then came Sesan Russell, and he had a stretch where he hit several big baskets in a row, opened the game back up and got us going again offensively.”
After the lead was trimmed to seven, Russell went on to score 11 of the Panthers’ next 16 points to help build Tech’s advantage back to 15 points, 71-56, with 5:33 to go. From there, Tech took over the flow of the game and cruised the rest of the way to its second straight win.
“Overall, tonight was a great basketball game and another opportunity for us to get a lot of valuable court time for a lot of young players,” said Mims.
Florida Tech has a week until its next game, its SSC opener at Saint Leo on Saturday, Nov. 23. Tipoff for the contest is 7:30 p.m. at the Bowman Activities Center.
For the latest news, updates and information on the Florida Tech men’s basketball team, visit FloridaTechSports.com.
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