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Sesan Russell scored 28 points to lead five Panthers in double-figures in Tech’s 111-71 win Thursday night

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Five Panthers scored in double-figures to guide the Florida Tech men’s basketball team to its first win of the 2019-20 season, a 111-71 rout of Johnson University on Thursday evening at the Clemente Center.

This is Tech’s first time scoring more than 100 points since a 107-87 victory over Miles College during the 2017-18 season. To find the last time the Panthers scored at least 110 points, you have to go back to Dec. 19 of the 2011-12 season when the squad came away with a 110-69 win over Trinity.

“It’s great to see we had five guys in double-figures and even two more guys with nine points. When you have that kind of contribution, you know the team played well. We had a tough time finding our shooting last week in Alabama. So it was nice to get home, back to the baskets we are accustomed to and the friendly confines of the Clemente Center.”

Sesan Russell led the way with his third 20-point outing of the season as he finished with 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds. He shot 10-of-16 from the field, 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and made all four of his free throws in the game. Mekhii Noble recorded a career-high 21 points with three rebounds and two blocks while going 10-of-12 from the floor in the game. Nieja Jordan tallied 10 points in the victory to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks. Antonis Pefanis had nine points on 3-of-5 shooting.

A trio of freshman had some great performances as well. Niall Harris made 5-of-9 baskets and finished with a double-double on 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Runako Ziegler also went 5-of-9 from the field and ended with 13 points and five rebounds. Andy Francis, who made his debut for the Crimson & Gray tonight, concluded with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three steals.

Florida Tech outpaced Johnson in all three shooting categories: field goal percentage (60.9% – 39.5%), three-point field goals (42.9% – 42.1%) and free throws (75.0% – 42.9%). The Panthers won the rebounding battle 47-31 while turning the Suns’ 12 turnovers into 23 points. Additionally, Tech outscored Johnson 66-40 in the paint, 30-14 in bench points and 26-8 in fast break points.

It was a sloppy start to the game as both teams struggled to hold onto the ball. However, after 10 minutes of action, the Panthers were able to build up a 21-10 advantage on a put-back by Jordan. With one minute remaining in the first half, Florida Tech had a commanding 50-30 lead.

A small run at the end of the first half and its continuation to open the second allowed the Suns to cut their deficit down to 50-39 with 18:58 to go in the second half.

“Even with the lead, I do not think we were aggressive enough in the first half and to start the second and Johnson went on a 9-0 run as a result,” Mims stated. “I told the guys they need to come out and play and be more aggressive on both sides of the court.

“When we came back on the court our intensity was much higher and you saw it in our play. We defended better; we rebounded really well and then pushed the ball quickly up the floor on offense.”

Florida Tech rapidly built its lead back above 20 points and eventually 23 on a three-ball by Russell that made the score 66-43 with 14:37 to go. Following an ensuing media timeout, the Suns switched up the defense and moved to a zone to slow down the Panthers’ onslaught. However, being a veteran, Russell noticed the switch and made the right decision on offense.  

“They went to a 1-3-1 zone and Sesan saw it right away and called our offense,” Mims noted. “He got the ball quickly to Antonis who knocked down back-to-back threes and that was the last we saw of their zone.”

Tech continued to grow its advantage from there and went up by as much as 40, 103-63, on a fast break layup by Harris with 3:30 remaining. At that point, Mims subbed out the starters and sent in the backups to close out the Panthers’ first win of the season.

“I thought it was a good team effort tonight,” said Mims. “Very proud of the fact we were able to play everybody who was healthy tonight, everyone had a chance to contribute in a positive way. Even with everyone getting their opportunity to play and having an impact on the win, we are still four players down at this point of the season.

“This team has tremendous potential and when we have everyone on the floor I think this is a team that will hopefully get better every time they take the court.”

Florida Tech is back in action on Saturday night as the Panthers continue their homestand by hosting Puerto Rico-Bayamon. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Clemente Center.

For the latest news, updates and information on the Florida Tech men’s basketball team, visit FloridaTechSports.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Panthers news by following Florida Tech Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

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