David Drucker/ Staff Writer
Florida International University men’s basketball team (11-11, 5-4 in Conference USA) lost their second game in a row to the Old Dominion University Monarchs on Friday, Jan. 29 in a 64-60 defeat. Senior center Adrian Diaz’s 21 points and Daviyon Draper’s 19 points ended up not being enough to make up for an embarrassing rebounding effort and a poor night of shooting.
“This is a team that has a lot of new pieces, and I know that we’re deep into the season, but those pieces are still meshing,” said Head Coach Anthony Evans.
Diaz scored a team-high 21 points, but recorded an uncharacteristic low of three rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Draper rebounded from a poor last-minute performance against the University of Charlotte in which he committed two turnovers. The senior forward flashed skill that has at times been missing this season, often blowing right by defenders while driving to the rim. He finished with nineteen points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals.
The Panthers were dominated on the boards: FIU surrendered a season-high 20 offensive rebounds and 22 second chance points. This disappointing effort comes two days after the Charlotte 49ers out-hustled the Panthers as well, redeeming 17 second effort points in the process.
FIU was also woeful from the three point arc again, shooting 1-11. The Panthers shot a sum of 6-25 from three point range for their two-game home stand.
The Panthers got off to another slow start in this one. Freshman guard Kimar Williams was blocked in the lane and Jason Boswell traveled before the Panthers could score any points. The Monarchs quickly gained a 6-0 in the first two minutes of the game.
FIU found difficulty moving the ball and finding open shots early in the game. Team basketball faded away as the Panthers could not find a basket and went in favor of isolation basketball. The Monarchs built up their lead to 25-15 with 4:15 left in the half.
Draper and Diaz were able to lead a small FIU run thanks to the fact that Old Dominion was also struggling to make shots; they shot 33 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. The Monarchs missed their last six shots of the half, allowing FIU to catch up and pull within 26-24 halftime.
The Panthers began the second half with another pair of ugly possessions. An alley-oop from Draper to Diaz and then a nice post move by FIU’s big man, however, gained the Panthers their first lead of the night at 38-37 with 11:29 left in the game. Old Dominion reclaimed the lead seconds later and kept it the rest of the game.
Although the Panthers were dominated on the boards and shot poorly, they managed to keep it close down the stretch and were behind only a single possession with a minute left. A reach-in foul by junior forward Jason Boswell, a make from Freeman and a Boswell miss on an open three took FIU out of the contest.
Draper believes that the Panthers must get back to their identity if they are to get back into a winning rhythm.
“Usually, we’re more focused on defense – it’s our staple as a team. Guys have to be more focused on playing defense,” said Draper.
Next up for the Panthers is a road trip to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Blazers have won 15 of their last 16 games.