MELBOURNE, Fla. (Men’s Basketball) – All five of Florida Tech’s starters tallied double figures Thursday
night as the Panthers claimed an 89-77 victory over the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras in the team’s season-opener. Sophomore forward Justin
Sedlak led all scorers with 25 points and 13 boards. “In the second half, all five of our starters played exactly the way we want them to
play night in and night out,” said head coach Billy Mims. “Jod Kelley was hitting shots inside and outside, E.J.
Murray did what E.J. does best, and most impressively, our “Man of the Match” Justin Sedlak was a beast on the boards, hit his threes and made his
free throws. He looked like a top international player.” There were several scoring bursts in the first half of play as the Panthers went up 22-9 in
a little over seven minutes before the Gallitos came back and tied it at the 9:05 mark. Pedro Minaya put in a layup to knot the game at 22-all. Rio Piedras
then took its first lead of the contest under a minute later on another layup by Minaya to make the score 26-24 in favor of the visitors. The
Gallitos led by as many as four points before Tech rallied to regain control at 6:13 on a dunk by Kelley off a pass from teammate Ryan
Ballard. Ballard led the Panthers with four assists on the night. Florida Tech changed to a zone to kick start its defense and pulled away on
offense, taking a 45-34 lead into halftime. “When we switched to a zone defense in the first half and brought Paul Sturgess in, he
made an immediate impact that caused them to alter their game,” said Mims. “He definitely helped give us that spurt at the end of the half.” Both
teams shot toe-to-toe for much of the second stanza, though Tech stretched its lead to 26 twice. The Gallitos used some substitutions in the final minutes
of the game to claw their way back in. After the Panthers led 87-62 with just over three minutes to go, Rio Piedras closed the match on a 15-2 run for the
final 12-point margin. Murray had 17 points for the Panthers, while Carl McNall posted 12 and Kelley and Arthur
Richardson notched 10 apiece. For the game, Tech shot over 52 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three-point land. The Panthers held a
slight 36-35 edge in rebounding, but had a commanding eight team blocks in the win. UPRRP shot 43.1 percent overall and nearly 74 percent from the
free throw line in the effort. The Gallitos were plagued by fould and turnovers, however, with 26 and 19, respectively.
Florida Tech continues its home stand this week as the Panthers host Clearwater Christian College at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, in the Clemente Center.