#2 FSW Runs Past Manatees in Key Conference Battle

Keon Ellis (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
Keon Ellis (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
FORT MYERS, Fla.- Jalen Finch ran the FSW offense like a conductor runs an orchestra and Keon Ellis continued to put up big numbers as the #2 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers blew past the visiting State College of Florida Manatees 96-69 Wednesday night in Suncoast Credit Union Arena to earn their 20th win of the year while remaining unbeaten in Suncoast Conference play at 3-0.  
The Bucs didn't get off to an optimal start, falling behind 7-2 right off the bat.  They quickly got things together, evening up the score at 9 on a pair of free throws from Keon Ellis before a bucket from De'Lazarus Keys on the inside gave them a two point lead with 15:29 to go in the half.  SCF tied the score back up at 13 moments later before threes from Berrick JeanLouis and Terry Roberts, followed by a huge slam from Jermaine Marshall paced a 10-0 run for the Bucs to push out in front 23-13 as the midway point of the half neared.  The Manatees kept fighting, doing most of their work at the free throw line, cutting the Bucs lead down to just two as the clock ticked under 8 minutes.  It remained a one possession game at 29-26 in favor of FSW when the Bucs stepped on the gas to finish the half, outscoring the Manatees 14-3 to take a 14 point, 43-29 lead after 20 minutes of action.  
The Bucs shot 49% in the first half and held SCF to just 33% shooting, but the Manatees doubled FSW's output at the line to remain within striking distance at the break.  Marshall just about logged a first half double-double with 11 points and 8 rebounds while Keys and Ellis each added 9 points for FSW.  
The state's leading scorer, D'Moi Hodge, came out hot for the Manatees as the second half began, knocking down each of his first four shots to get SCF back to within seven at 51-44 with 15:15 to go.  It was a nine point game moments later when the Bucs stepped on the gas one last time and put the game away.  A three from Ellis, followed by an alley oop from Jalen Finch to Marshall spurred an 8-2 run to put the Bucs up 15 and the game out of reach for the Manatees.  FSW pushed their lead to 20 on a floater from Finch at the 5:30 mark and continued to pour it on late, eventually going up by as many as 33 on a one handed throw down from Ellis before coasting to a 96-69 win, their 11th straight over the Manatees.  
FSW shot right at their season average at 49% on the night while holding SCF to a season low 34.5% shooting in the contest.   Finch put together one of the more impressive lines you will ever see, going 7-12 from the field, good for 15 points, while dishing out 10 assists for his first double-double of the season. More impressive for Finch was a goose egg in the turnover category, making him the first player in program history with double digit assists without a single turnover in a game.  Ellis lit up the scoreboard lights once again, putting up 34 points, including 25 in the second half, on 11-19 shooting for FSW. Marshall also had a whale of a game, needing just 7 field goal attempts to get his 14 points while also ripping down 12 rebounds in his fifth double-double of the year.  Keys continued his strong play, scoring 13 points and pulling down 8 boards.  He has now put together his top three scoring efforts of his career in the Bucs past three contests. 
FSW improves to 20-1 on the year and 3-0 in Suncoast Conference action while State College of Florida sees their eight game winning streak come to a screeching halt as they fall to 17-5 overall and 3-1 in league play.  
The Bucs are back in action Saturday afternoon when they head on the road to Polk State to take on the Eagles in a 4 PM tip.