Spartans Head to SSC Semifinals with Win Over Florida Tech

Box Score

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The University of Tampa (19-8) men’s basketball team took on the Florida Tech (16-13) Panthers Thursday evening in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament Quarterfinals. In an evenly matched battle, the Spartans edged the Panthers 64-58.

Tampa is no stranger to a quarterfinal battle with Florida Tech. In the 2011 Sunshine State Conference Championships’ quarterfinal round, the Spartans defeated the Panthers 79-75, and foreshadowed the same fate. 

The Spartans commenced the contest with an offensive dry spell, missing shot opportunities the team would normally knock down. The Panthers grabbed the advantage early on with an 8-0 run, until a layup by Eric Moraes at the 17 minute mark fueled a mini scoring rhythm.

Tampa trailed for the majority of the first period, until a red hot Tyler Zacur came off the bench to score three consecutive baskets from downtown, notching nine points in under two minutes of play. Both teams shot poorly from the field, however, the Spartans outscored the Panthers from three-point range by 20 percent.

Zacur led all scorers at the half with 11 points, shooting 3-of-4 three-point field goals. Moraes contributed eight points in the Spartans 33-30 lead at halftime.

UT is 10-2 on the season when leading at the half, thus; the slight advantage atop the second period of play allowed the Spartans to play with a certain level of comfort, while forcing the Panthers to conform to the preferred style of basketball. 

Tampa led by as many as seven points during the first portion of the second stint. The Panthers’ Corbin Jackson tied the game up with a layup, eventually allowing for a one point lead over the Spartans with 11 minutes remaining. Although it looked as if Florida Tech gained a dangerous momentum, Tampa attacked the rim enough to receive several free throw opportunities.

Spartans shot much better from the field in the second half and held the Panthers to a 31 percent field goal performance. Moraes tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in Tampa’s victory. Matt Johnson and Da'Markco Foster recorded 10 points apiece, in addition to Zacur’s 11 from the first half.

Tampa will advance to the semifinal round to face off against Saint Leo, the second seed in the tournament. UT split the regular season series with the Lions 1-1. The last time the teams met, Saint Leo trumped the Spartans 57-51 on their home court.

The most recent appearance in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament Semifinal round for the Spartans was back in the 2010-11 season, where Tampa fell to Rollins 67-62.

Action will begin Saturday at 5 p.m., in Kissimmee, Florida (Silver Spurs Arena). For live Sunshine State Conference Tournament updates, visit www.sunshinestateconference.com.

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