FIU’s defense falters in loss to North Texas

Tony Mitchell did not forget about his zero-point performance against FIU’s men’s basketball team on Jan. 17 and Roger Franklin did not forget about the six-point loss at the U.S. Century Bank Arena. The Mean Green of North Texas made it apparent that they would not yield to the Panthers on their home floor on Feb. 9. Their 75-percent shooting from the field combined with poor Panthers defense was just too much for FIU  leaving the Panthers with a 77-67 loss.

FIU (13-11, 8-7 SBC) was riding into North Texas (9-17, 4-11 SBC) with confidence after a 19-point victory over their in-state rivals, the Florida Atlantic University Owls. North Texas was also on a five-game losing streak. However, the Mean Green team was able to expose the Panthers’ 10th ranked scoring defense and 11th ranked field goal percent defense in the Sun Belt Conference.

FIU’s Deric Hill started off the game with a long three. The sophomore guard went on to have a career-high 15 points, on 3-for-3 from the three-point line.

North Texas retaliated with a Mitchell jumper and a Jordan Williams three. The Panthers’ Tymell Murphy would hit a three-pointer of his own at the 18:30 mark, which would be FIU’s final lead of the game, 6-5.

Through the first half of play, North Texas was shooting nearly 79 percent from the field, 56 percent from the three and 100 percent from the free-throw line. Mitchell was a perfect 4-for-4 on shot attempts, while Franklin was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw. Franklin also had 11 of his 21 points in the first 20 minutes of gameplay.

In the second half, FIU tried taking advantage of their conference-best 10 steals a game, by forcing 12 turnovers on six steals. Murphy also led a second half charge of 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting, but his game-high 23 points was not enough.

FIU has struggled rebounding this season. They are the second worst team in the SBC grabbing defensive rebounds, at only 21 a game. Against the Mean Green, the Panthers were outrebounded on the defensive glass, 23-8.

The Panthers next game will be on the road against the Troy Trojans (10-15, 5-9 SBC) on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. FIU beat Troy in their previous meeting at home, 61-55, but the Panthers are 2-5 in conference road games this season. The Panthers will also have to contend with the Trojans’ SBC best assist to turnover ratio.