FIU Defeats UTEP Miners 79-69

David Drucker/ Staff Writer

The FIU’s men’s basketball team (11-9, 5-2 in Conference USA) completed their Lone Star conference slate on Saturday, Jan. 23 in a 79-69 victory over the University of Texas at El Paso. Senior center Adrian Diaz scored a team-leading 20 points and junior guard Donte McGill scored 14 points in the last 20 minutes as the Panthers held off a surging UTEP team in the second half.

FIU was efficient on offense, making 53 percent of their shots from the field and 44 percent  from behind the arc. The Panthers’ defense was also excellent, holding the Miners to 41 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent on three pointers. Both teams committed 12 turnovers, although FIU came away with eight steals. The Panthers scored 16 points off of takeaways.

Prior to Saturday night, UTEP was undefeated in conference play at home. Both teams entered the contest knowing how important getting the win was; FIU was playing to avoid returning to Lime Court at .500 and UTEP was attempting to build some momentum after defeating Florida Atlantic University 71-56.

UTEP held the early advantage from the tip, getting up 7-2. The Panthers fought back going on a 10-0 run and leading 12-7. They went on another 10-0 run later in the half to gain a 38-25 advantage. Senior forward Daviyon Draper was key to the Panthers’ success on both ends of the court; he scored 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. At halftime, FIU commanded a 41-28 lead.

The Panthers extended their lead in the beginning of the second half. With 10:43 left in the game, however, UTEP launched a 24-6 run in which the Miners’ leading scorer Lee Moore scored 12 points and his team stifled the Panthers’ offense. The run shrank FIU’s lead to 70-67, but the Panthers’ offense was jumpstarted by a three pointer from Eric Nottage. FIU secured the lead by making 4-6 free throws in desperation time and took the game 79-69.

FIU retained fourth place in the C-USA standings, moving one game back behind Marshall University (6-1) and Middle Tennessee (6-1), and two games behind University of Alabama at Birmingham (7-0). Next up for the Panthers is a two-game home stand against the Charlotte 49ers and the Old Dominion Monarchs. Tipoff against the 49ers is set for 7 pm on Thursday, Jan. 28.

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