LAKELAND – Ryan Maultsby (Vero Beach, Florida) scored a career-high 29 points and had eight rebounds, while Titas Vainauskas (Vilnius, Lithuania) scored 26
points with eight rebounds to lead Florida Tech to an 85-82 win over Florida Southern.
The Moccasins (16-11, 7-9) had led 43-35 at halftime and were up by 11 early in the second half when Maultsby connected for one if his five, second-half
3-pointers. The senior swingman would go on to score 20 points in the second half, a period in which the Panthers shot 57 percent from the field
(16-for-28), 64 percent from 3-point range (nine-for-14), and 100 percent from the line (nine-for-nine).
The Panthers (7-21, 3-13), who won four of their last five regular season games, used the long ball to mount their comeback. Down 69-61 with just over
eight minutes to play, they received three consecutive 3-pointers from Maultsby, Brad Rich (Oviedo, Florida), and Maultsby again to forge ahead, 70-69.
Dale Parsons and Blake Williams hit 3-point field goals for the Moccasins sandwiched around a lay-up by Hill, and FSC was able to take a 75-72 lead with
four minutes to play. Two minutes later, with the Mocs still clinging to a three-point lead, Rich was able to convert another 3-pointer for the Panthers
that knotted the game at 80.
Parsons then gave the Mocs an 82-80 lead on two free throws with 1:41 to play, but the Panthers scored the final five points of the game. The big play came
with 19.2 seconds on the clock, when Jod Kelly (McCormick, South Carolina) was able to squeeze through the middle of the Southern defense for a tying
layup, was fouled on the play, and completed the three-point play to give Florida Tech an 83-82 advantage.
Kelly finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Rich also added eleven points while E.J. Murray (Rockledge, Florida) had the game high assists with eight
for the night. When Murray was not hitting his shots, he managed to change up his game and find the key passes inside and able to dish it out to the wings
to fellow shooters Maultsby, Rich and Vainauskas.
The Moccasins missed two shots on their next possession, before Maultsby grabbed the rebound for the Panthers and sank two foul shots to put his team
ahead, 85-82. A 3-point attempt by Parsons at buzzer rimmed in and out for the Moccasins, who suffered their third straight loss to end the regular season.
Parsons finished with 19 points for Florida Southern, and was one of five Moccasins in double figures. Arnaldo Abreu matched his career-high with 16
points, while Williams and Hurley Dunbar each scored 14. Michael Simms added 12. Williams and Abreu each had seven rebounds.
Florida Southern played nearly mistake free with the ball, committing just four turnovers, but Florida Tech was nearly perfect from the free throw line.
The Panthers made 23-of-24 foul shots for a .958 percentage, and made their final 19 attempts.
With the win Florida Tech grabs the #8 spot edging #9 Saint Leo because of their win against Tampa. Tech will face Saint Leo on Wednesday, February 1st at
5:00 p.m. opening up to the 2006 SSC Basketball Tournament hosted by Saint Leo.