Men’s basketball claims victories in season opener

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There’s an equation for winning the Sunshine State Conference and getting a bid into the NCAA tournament.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Billy Mims said he likes that Florida Tech is a math school and his players already understand the formula.

“If you’re 8-0 at home, 4-4 on the road, you’ve got a chance to win this league,” said Mims.

There are three variables within the equation for this season — playing aggressively, making the free throws and driving home the win in the final minutes.

That aggressive play all starts with ‘Billy Ball.’

Mims said it’s all about attacking the basket and forcing the officials to blow the whistle.

“Our goal night in and night out is to shoot more free throws than our opponent and make more free throws than our opponent,” Mims said. “We want 25 percent of our offense every night at the free throw line.”

For that goal to become a reality, the team has to be able to execute. Last year Florida Tech struggled at the line, despite being among the top teams in free throw attempts.

“Some guys are never going to be great free throw shooters,” Mims said. “Look at the NBA and Shaquille O’Neal: the guy made millions playing the game and he was an important factor, but he was a 40 percent free throw shooter.”

This season, Mims said he plans on making sure that the ball is in the hands of the guy who can make the shot at the end of the game.

When the right guy is on the line, the team is in a much better position to win the game.

“We have to finish a little better,” Mims said. “Last year, we played really well for 38 minutes and then found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot, maybe in the last two, and sometimes beat ourselves.”

For just that reason, the Panthers fell short in a number of pivotal conference games last season.

For example, the Panthers were up by 19 going into halftime against the National Champion Florida Southern, and ended up losing in overtime with Kevin Capers ‘hitting a prayer’ to win the game.

“We were one play,” Mims said. “Jermaine Jackson, if he catches the ball, there was one possession that it just, and what did we do wrong with it, nothing, the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

Those losses landed Florida Tech at No. 5, just outside the top four in the conference.

“I want us to be a top four team. Because if you’re in the top four, you have a shot,” Mims said. “You have a chance to win the league and you certainly have a chance at an NCAA tournament bid.”

Four out of the past six years the Panthers have been in that top four. This year, Mims is pushing his young team to do the same.

“If we can get over that youth and that youth can mature very quickly, then this season could be an exciting season,” said Mims.

Florida Tech started solving their equation with two tight wins against Clark Atlanta and Paine College this past weekend, 94-88 and 94-92, respectively.

Both games came down to the wire, and despite the youth, Florida Tech began to display the finesse that was lacking last season, starting the season in victory.