David Drucker/ Staff Writer
The men’s basketball team was handled on Thursday, March 3, night in a 77-60 victory by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers. The Panthers were able to make big runs in each half to keep the lead within reach, but a stout UAB team took advantage of FIU’s mediocre shooting and 22 turnovers to claim their first win in Florida in three years.
The Blazers (25-5, 15-2 in C-USA) entered the game already the regular season conference champions. After winning the C-USA championship last year, the Blazers put together a fantastic regular season in which they compiled a 14-game winning streak.
FIU entered the contest coming off of 71-63 win over Florida Atlantic University, but still feeling the sting of losing seven of their last nine games.
In a rare move, Head Coach Anthony Evans elected to start sophomore guard Eric Nottage in place of freshman Kimar Williams. Nottage finished the game with just three points and a rebound in 25 minutes of action.
The Panthers made the Blazers work for their points in the beginning of the first half. FIU shot 50.0 percent from the field while holding the Blazers to 41.4 percent shooting.
UAB was able to attempt 14 more first half shots than the Panthers, however, thanks to second chance opportunities and FIU’s nine turnovers in the first ten minutes.
FIU’s early high turnover rate foreshadowed a disastrous night of maintaining possession; the Panthers 22 total turnovers led to 26 UAB points going the other way.
In the first few minutes of the game, junior guard Donte McGill flashed some of the skill that made him FIU’s midseason MVP as he made his first three shots. He kept FIU close as they trailed UAB 19-17 with 10:59 left in the first half.
The Blazers took over from there, outscoring FIU 22-9 through the remainder of the half. At the intermission, FIU was down 41-28.
Senior Daviyon Draper helped the Panthers close the lead in the beginning of the second half. He scored five straight points and closed the lead to 46-41 with 13:47 left in the game.
The Blazers were able to pull away, however, as the Panthers shot 38.7 percent from the field. At the final buzzer, the Blazers defeated FIU 77-60.
For UAB, the victory was Head Coach Jerod Haase’s first career road win in the Sunshine State. Haase was 0-4 versus Florida Atlantic University and FIU on the road prior to his team’s 77-60 rout of the Panthers on Thursday night.