David Drucker/ Staff Writer
The men’s basketball team (12-16, 6-9 in Conference USA) was handled by the Rice University Owls on Saturday, Feb. 20, in an 86-70 rout of the Panthers. The blowout loss marks FIU’s seventh in their last eight games and underlines their struggles since beginning conference play 5-2.
Senior forward Daviyon Draper scored a career-high 29 points in the game on 9-14 shooting. He was just edged for the game-high by Rice’s Marcus Evans, who finished with 30 points on 11-17 shooting. Senior center Adrian Diaz recorded his 1,000th career point in the game. He finished the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds – his first double-double since Dec. 29.
The Panthers turned the ball over 13 times compared to Rice’s seven turnovers. The Owls scored 17 points off of FIU’s turnovers. Of those turnovers, 11 came on Owl steals. Rice also recorded eight fast break points, 11 offensive rebounds and 20 second chance points. FIU has turned the ball over 13 times or more in each of their last three contests.
Rice pushed FIU around from the tip in this contest. The Owls started off on a 7-0 run before the Panthers woke up and cut the lead to 13-12. FIU began to fall behind after a Connor Cashaw three ignited a 15-5 Rice run.
Freshman Michael Douglas stopped the bleeding for FIU after making a three. Rice rebounded with a three of their own and the Panthers traded possessions with the Owls as they hovered at a 10-point advantage. That was until Evans stuffed four points, two steals and an assist in the last 1:23 of the first half. At halftime, the Owls had a commanding 52-34 lead.
FIU would not be able to scratch Rice’s lead in the second half. The Owls gained as much as a 68-45 lead with 11 minutes left to play. The Panthers could not mount a comeback and would not come any closer than from 15 points behind. At the final buzzer, FIU lost the contest 86-70.
The Panthers are scheduled to complete their three-game road trip on Saturday, Feb. 27, when they travel to Florida Atlantic University to play the Owls (7-21, 6-10 in C-USA). FAU can tie FIU in the C-USA standings with a win on their home court Thursday, Feb. 25.