By Steven Melendez/Staff Writer
Black and Gold Shootout
Game One: FIU vs. Elon
The FIU men’s basketball team failed to capitalize on their strong second half lead against the Elon Phoenix on Friday, Nov. 17, as the team lost 95-87 in a heartbreaking triple overtime thriller. This marked the first road game of the 2017-18 season for the Panthers (1-2) and the start of the Black and Gold Shootout tournament in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
FIU had four players in double digits with junior forward Eric Lockett leading the Panthers in scoring for the second game in a row. Lockett had a career-tying 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for the first double-double of his FIU career.
A few other players had big games with freshman guard Isaiah Banks putting up a career-high 17 points and junior guard Brian Beard Jr. having a career-best 16 points.
The Panthers shot 51% from the field, as they held a 43-39 half time lead and extended that lead to 13 points with 7:39 left in the second half.
The Panthers would go cold and shoot just 33% from field in the second half. The Phoenix outscored FIU 18-5 the rest of the way, with Dmitri Thompson hitting a three with five seconds left to tie the game at 66.
In the first overtime, Beard tied the game with a free throw, but failed to hit the second to go ahead as Elon missed their game winning layup on the other end. The second overtime was a defensive slugfest with each team only scoring four points in the period. In the third overtime, FIU’s defensive rotations got sloppy and opened up good looks for Elon, which led to a 9-3 run to end the game.
FIU’s free throw shooting continues to be a problem as they have shot 54% from the line. They shot seven of 15 from the charity stripe while Elon went 18 of 24; that disparity has been taking the Panthers out of games a lot this year and they need to straighten it out if they want to string some wins together.
The triple overtime game against Elon was the longest for FIU since a five-overtime game against UALR, which ended with a 116-114 Panther victory on Jan. 30, 2005. This also marks FIU’s third straight loss to the Elon Phoenix in three seasons as the Panthers fall to 0-3 in the all-time series.
Game Two: FIU vs. Milwaukee
Following their triple overtime loss against Elon, FIU was back in action against the Milwaukee Panthers on Saturday, Nov. 18. In the second game of the Black and Gold Shootout for FIU, Milwaukee defeated FIU 66-51. With the loss, FIU drops top 1-3.
Junior forward Eric Lockett, who scored a career-high 23 points on 60% shooting, led the Panthers. Lockett also added three rebounds, two assists, and two steals, as he continued to fill the stat sheet. Brian Beard Jr. and Trejon Jacob were the only other players to hit double-digits with 13 and 11 points respectively.
The first half started like most have this season for FIU, with the team getting off to a cold start on offense.
Milwaukee seemed to be ahead of FIU’s defensive rotations for most of the first half, as the team held a 26-14 lead with six minutes left. That’s when FIU brought out their 2-3-zone defense, and sparked a 10-0 run to bring the deficit to just two before the half.
At the start of the second half, FIU came out cold, and Milwaukee went on a 15-4 run to extend their lead to 49-33.
FIU failed to bring the game within single digits the rest of the way, as Milwaukee continued to score down the stretch. Milwaukee’s Bryce Nze had his way with FIU’s defense, as he finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.
As a team, the FIU Panthers had their worst shooting game of the season. FIU shoot just 35% (19-for-54) from the field, 26% (5-for-19) from the 3-point line, and just 61.5% (8-for-13) from the free-throw line.
Milwaukee didn’t have the same problems on offense like FIU. They managed to shoot 48% (24-for-50) from the field, 53% (9-for-17) from the 3-point line, and 82% (9-for-11) from the charity stripe.
Game Three: FIU vs. Concordia-St. Paul
The FIU Panthers men’s basketball team closed out the 2017 Black & Gold Shootout in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a 77-67 win over Concordia-St. Paul. This win marked their first road win of the season, as the Panthers are now 2-3 on the season.
FIU (2-3) was led by sophomore guard Trejon Jacob with a career-high 23 points and four rebounds. Unlike Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, where only three FIU players combined for 47 of the 51 total points, there were contributions coming from multiple players.
Junior forward Michael Douglas had his best game of the season finishing with a career-high 16 points to go with five rebounds and three steals off the bench.
Freshman guard Cordell Veira received his first start of the season, with Brian Beard Jr. out, and he took advantage of his opportunity scoring a career-high nine points and dishing out a career-high four assists.
Junior guard Eric Lockett had his first single-digit scoring game of the season, but he was still able to impact the game in multiple ways, as he finished with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
This was the most dominant first half FIU has played all season. The Panthers led for all 20 minutes and built a 13-point lead, after Lockett hit the first of two free-throw attempts with 1:31 left to play.
The defense was great for the Panthers, as the team held Concordia-St. Paul to just 34% shooting (10-for-29) from the field and 29% (2-for-7) from the three-point line.
The second half became much more competitive, as both teams scored 40 points. Concordia-St. Paul were much more efficient then FIU, shooting 56% from the field and 50% from the three-point line compared to FIU’s 43% and 40% respectively. Concordia-St. Paul brought the lead down to six multiple times, but that was as close as they got.
Senior forward Ronald Whitaker played a significant role in the Panthers sustaining their lead. Whitaker made three field goals on consecutive possessions, including a three that made the score 62-46 with 9:42 left.
FIU finished the game shooting 46% (25-for-55) from the field and 38% (9-for-24) from the three-point line for one of their better offensive performances of the season. However, free throw shooting continues to hurt them, as the team finished shooting 64% (18-for-28).
After a long road trip, the Panthers will return home and host (4-1) South Carolina, who was a 2017 Final Four participant. The two teams will face off on Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Ocean Bank Convocation Center.