Florida Tech holds off Saint Leo
Cummings, Reid lead Panthers to first-round victory
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Fourth-seeded Florida Tech advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history on Saturday night, defeating fifth-seeded Saint Leo 61-56 at Alabama-Huntsville’s Spragins Hall. The Panthers are now 23-6 overall, while the Lions conclude their season at 18-12.
“We defended well all night long,” head coach Billy Mims said. “We probably gave our best defensive effort all year. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but two stats really jumped out to me, and I would have been disappointed if we lost this game because of these two stats. We talk all the time about two areas, one is rebounding. Tonight, we outrebounded [Saint Leo] 50-31. The second stat is free throws. You need to shoot more free throws than the opponent and make more free throws. Tonight, we went 21-of-25 from the line and Saint Leo was 8-for-11.”
Faced with an eight-point deficit with 15:57 to play, Simon Cummings tied the game at 37-all. Saint Leo, however, quickly regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Trent Thomas and held it until Cummings found Anthony Jackson for a thunderous dunk at the 4:46 mark of the second half.
One more 3-pointer by Thomas gave the Lions their final lead of the game with 1:43 to play. On the ensuing possession, Cummings was fouled, and he made two free throws to put his team ahead. Thomas had two chances to drain a 3-pointer with about a minute remaining, but Cummings pounced on Thomas’ last attempt. The ball then found Jackson who was fouled and made two free throws. With six seconds left, Julius Reid put the game out of reach with his 16th and 17th points of the contest.
Reid finished with his second double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and tearing down 11 rebounds. Cummings also scored 17 points and chipped in seven boards. Derek Hellemann rounded out the Panthers who scored in double figures with 11.