MELBOURNE, Fla. – Florida Tech turned in a highly efficient offensive effort Saturday afternoon on the way to a 90-68 rout of Johnson & Wales at the Clemente Center.
The Panthers showed no fatigue while playing in their second game in less than 24 hours, scoring a season-best 52 first-half points and cruising to their fourth straight home win to start the season.
“What a difference a day makes!” exclaimed head coach Billy Mims. “Playing our second game in less than 24 hours, and after a lackluster effort and poor shooting performance yesterday, I really did not know what to expect today. It would not take long to find out though as Derek and Sesan came out on fire against the Johnson & Wales’ zone. Their tremendous three-point shooting carried us to an almost perfect first half of play.”
Derek Murphy and Sesan Russell set the scorebook on fire as they combined for 49 points on 18-of-24 shooting and 11 made three-pointers.
Murphy paced all players in the game with 27 points and six rebounds. The senior got off to a fast start scoring 16 points on 6-of-6 from the field, including making all four of his attempts from beyond the arc. Murphy finished the game shooting 10-of-13 and 5-of-7 from long range.
Russell was just as impressive as he recorded 22 points, six rebounds and three assists while making 8-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-8 from three-point range. It is the sixth time in the first seven games that Russell scored more than 20 points.
Mate Papai nearly had himself a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Niall Harris added seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and Valur Valsson dished out a game-high 12 assists to go along with six points.
“I thought Valur had a great game and his 12 assists were key to our offensive execution,” said Mims. “Mate Papai had another solid day and Jalen Hodges gave us seven strong rebounds and a couple of spectacular dunks. All in all, I was pleased with our defensive effort, our energy, and our execution throughout the game.”
For the second game in a row, Coach Mims was able to unload the bench as 15 different players touched the court for the Panthers. Ten of those players tallied points in the victory.
Murphy got the scoring going with a jumper and a trey to put Tech up 5-0. However, JWU matched the early intensity as the Wildcats knocked down four straight threes to open the game and led 12-7 with 15:24 left in the first half.
The Panthers responded to the adversity and proceeded to lay down a 30-6 run over the next seven minutes to grab a 37-18 lead. Russell and Murphy combined for seven of Florida Tech’s eight threes during that spree, including the capper by Russell with 8:12 to go in the half to give his team a 19-point edge.
Valsson’s second trey of the game increased the Panthers’ lead to 52-31 with 59 seconds left in the opening frame. Tech carried the 21-point lead into the halftime break.
The Panthers shot lights-out in the first half, making 64.5% from the field and 12-of-17 (70.6%) beyond the arc. Tech scored 17 points off turnovers and received 19 points from the bench over the first 20 minutes of action.
Murphy and Russell continued the Panthers’ melee after halftime as each knocked down a three to open the second half and pushed Tech’s lead to 27.
A put-back my Papai off a rare miss by Russell increased Florida Tech’s advantage to a game-high 29 points, 66-37, with 14:59 remaining in the game.
The margin never dropped below 22 points the rest of the contest as the Panthers rolled to their second straight win.
Florida Tech’s shooting cooled off a little in the second half but the Panthers still finished 34-of-59 (57.6%) from the field, including 15-of-27 (55.6%) from three, and made 7-of-12 free throws. Johnson & Wales was limited to 26-of-67 (38.8%) shooting, 12-of-31 (38.7%) from long range, and went 4-of-8 at the charity stripe.
Tech outrebounded JWU 39-31 in the ball game and scored 24 points off the Wildcats’ 12 turnovers. The Panthers also ended the day with an edge in points in the paint (32-22), second-chance points (9-6) and bench points (33-28).
Florida Tech looks to continue its home court advantage as the squad jumps back into Sunshine State Conference play this week by hosting Palm Beach Atlantic on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Tipoff between Tech and PBA is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Clemente Center.
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