MELBOURNE, Fla. – Barry scrambled vigilantly throughout in a game it desperately wanted, but the Buccaneers couldn’t crack Florida Tech’s code in Wednesday’s 53-46 loss at Clemente Center.
The Buccaneers drew within three on two occasions in the last 6:20, but Barry couldn’t get any closer on an emotionally-charged night for the Panthers, playing in front of 801 fans. The Bucs nearly spoiled the party.
Barry (11-14, 5-8 Sunshine State Conference) held Florida Tech (18-5, 10-4) to 31.7 percent shooting, but hit only 31.1 percent of its own shots.
Emory Bennett scored on a putback with 17:31 remaining to give the Bucs a four-point lead. Anthony Jackson scored on a driving lay-in at the 12:37 mark to put the Panthers on top, 31-27. Jackson scored again less than a minute later before Bennett responded with a low-post move to keep Barry within four.
Chad Renfro canned a triple from the wing to pull the Buccaneers within one. The Panthers bumped their lead back to five on Derek Helleman’s layup, but Bennett dropped in a spinning low-post field goal to cut it to 39-36 with 6:20 to play.
Helleman sank two free throws, but Bennett scored on the next trip down the floor, cutting the Panthers lead to five. Justin McCoy hit a fall-away jumper at the 2:20 mark to pull the Bucs within four, and Renfro sank a free throw as Barry drew within 47-44.
Bennett and Renfro each scored 12 points. Damien Dwaine had 10 rebounds, and McCoy had seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Bennett was six of 13 from the floor.
Brian Van Cott canned a jumper off a screen from the top of the key to tie the game at 13-13 with 6:08 left in the first half. Bennett scored down low at the 3:14 mark to give Barry a 20-19 lead.
Florida Tech scored on its next trip down the floor, but Renfro hit a three to knot the game for the third time heading into intermission.
Barry, which ranks 33rd in the country in field goal percentage defense, held Tech to 27.3 percent shooting in the opening half.
Jermaine Jackson scored eight of his 11 points in the first half for the Panthers. Simon Cummings had 13.
The Buccaneers, which play at Eckerd Saturday, attempted eight free throws to the Panthers’ 18.