Adrian Diaz Leads Panthers over Blazers

David Drucker/Staff Writer

The men’s basketball team (15-16, 8-10 in Conference USA) stunned the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (16-15, 12-6 in C-USA) at FIU Arena in a 70-66 victory on Saturday night. Junior forward Adrian Diaz notched the school’s first recorded triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and a University-high 13 blocks in the win.

Seniors Dennis Mavin, Marco Porcher Jiminez, and Kris Gulley were honored in front of the crowd before they played their final home game. Head Coach Anthony Evans placed all three in the starting five. The juniors, however, would be just as pivotal in the win.

On the Panthers’ first possession, Mavin fed it to junior Daviyon Draper for a baseline slam. Porcher then planted himself and drew an offensive foul on UAB’s C.J. Washington. Diaz scored the majority of his team’s points before Gulley hit back-to-back three pointers to put Florida International University up 18-12. The Blazers’ aggressive style of offense helped facilitate the Diaz block party; the junior had seven rejections in the first half. At halftime, the score was FIU 31, UAB 26.

The Blazers easily erased FIU’s five-point lead in the first minute of the second half thanks to a UAB three, a Draper turnover, and a Washington put-back. Draper stepped up, however, and did the bulk of scoring in the second half  – he finished with 20 points. The junior fouled out with 3:35 to play and his team down 60-61. In the game’s final minutes, both Mavin and Gulley converted crucial and-one basket to lead FIU to the 70-66 win.

Diaz joined heralded Miami company with his 13 blocks. The only other player to record as many rejections in Conference USA history was now-Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside with Marshall University in 2010. Diaz also set the NCAA record for most blocked shots in 2014-2015 with his Saturday night performance.

FIU’s 8-10 record in C-USA claimed them the 10 seed in the tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. They will face off against the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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