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11-24-19 – Saint Leo, Florida,
Sesan Russell records fifth straight game with 20-plus points as Panthers fall 75-70 to the Lions Saturday evening
SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Florida Tech men’s basketball team was defeated by Saint Leo 75-70 in both team’s Sunshine State Conference opener Saturday evening at the Marion Bowman Activities Center.
Sesan Russell recorded a game-high 22 points and five steals on 5-of-13 shooting and 4-of-11 from beyond the arc. Runako Ziegler posted 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with six rebounds. Niall Harris ended with 10 points and five rebounds, while Nieja Jordan registered eight points, a game-high 11 rebounds and two blocks.
The Panthers struggled to shoot the ball in the first half, going 8-of-23 (35%) from the field and 6-of-19 (32%) beyond the arc. However, they picked up their play after halftime and finished the game shooting 21-of-49 (42.9%), 9-of-29 (31%) from three and 19-of-29 at the charity stripe. Saint Leo made 24-of-57 (42.1) for the game while going 12-of-29 (41.4) from long range and 15-of-22 on free throws.
Tech won the rebounding battle 36-34 and finished with five blocks as a team. SLU ended with the upper hand in points in the paint (22-18), points off turnovers (23-18), second-chance points (12-7) and bench points (38-14).
The flow of the game was fairly even between the Panthers and Lions in the first half with the lead bouncing back and forth through the initial 16 minutes of action. Russell’s first basket of the game gave Tech a 16-11 lead, its largest of the game, with 14:09 left in the first half. From there, the score differential was no larger than three points for much of the remainder of the first half.
A jumper by Jordan with 3:30 to go before halftime tied the score at 31-31. However, Saint Leo closed the half on a 10-0 run and carried a 41-31 advantage into the half.
Florida Tech began to trim into the lead after the half, cutting it down to 43-40 with 15:18 to go following consecutive layups by Mekhii Noble, who ended the game with seven points.
The Lions ensued on an 11-4 run to build their lead back to double-digits, 54-44, with 10:51 left on the clock. The run continued and SLU eventually led by 18 points with 7:21 remaining on the clock.
Tech was able to produce a 13-2 run to climb back into the game and make it 67-60 with 2:18 left. The Lions countered and built their lead back to 13, 75-62, with less than a minute to go.
Despite the deficit and just 31 seconds remaining, the Panthers continued to fight and ended up scoring eight straight points to cut the margin to five at the final whistle.
Next up for Florida Tech is a matchup with Division I FGCU on Tuesday, Nov. 26, in Fort Myers, Florida. Tipoff between the Panthers and Eagles will begin at 7 p.m. at Alico Arena.
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