Journey to the Tourney: Panthers’ basketball prepares for the C-USA Tournament

Junior guard Eric Lockett (5) looks to inbound the ball against the Rice Owls on Feb. 24, 2018 at the Ocean Bank Convovation Center. (Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


After losing three-straight games, the men’s basketball team managed to go on a three-game winning streak, and propel their overall record to 14-16.

As the Conference USA tournament quickly approaches, the team will look to ride their momentum heading in. Their first win of the streak came against the North Texas Mean Green at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center on Feb. 22, when the team won 69-68

“It was a good win, we needed it,” said Head Coach Anthony Evans, following the team’s victory. “… We dropped three in a row, so coming home I think was good for us. It gave us a good chance to regroup.”

Panthers’ head coach Anthony Evans overlooks his team, as they take on the Rice Owls on Feb. 24 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. (Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press)

Throughout this three-game winning streak, the Panthers have a featured a new starting lineup of: guard Trejon Jacob, guard Brian Beard, Jr., guard Eric Lockett, forward Michael Douglas, and forward Jay Harvey.

Evans adding Douglas in the starting five has seemed to spark energy within the team. In his first game in the starting lineup, the junior forward scored a game-high 14 points and made his first four shots.

“When I hit the first two, I was like I’m feeling it tonight,” said Douglas. “I just kept shooting and they kept falling. Coming out, I just tried to be as aggressive as I can.”

As the Conference USA Tournament approaches, Evans believes the team must become more consistent in order to make a run in the tournament.

“We got to be consistent, we need to be consistent with our effort and our execution. We have to put it together and more games will be won,” said the Panthers’ head coach.

The defense has been a major factor during the team’s winning streak, controlling some of the best offensive players in the conference. During the Panthers’ victory against North Texas, the Panthers were able to control Roosevelt Smart, C-USA’s fourth-best scorer, to just nine points. Smart averages 18.9 points per game this season.

The solid defense displayed by the Panthers has allowed the team to transition from defense to offense in an efficient manner, according to Evans. FIU average 13.3 points on the fast break.

“Defensively, once we’re able to get some stops, we are able to get out on the break,” said Evans. “Even if we aren’t able to get on the break, we can still makes some baskets in the half court. So defense fuels our offense”

Junior guard Eric Lockett has been a cornerstone for the men’s basketball squad. Throughout the three-game winning streak, Lockett has averaged 17 points, eights rebounds, and three assists.

“I just do what I can do for my team every night,” said Lockett. “I’ll do whatever needs to be done. I try to go out there and do it, whether it’s scoring, rebounding, defending, or passing the ball.”

Junior point guard Brian Beard Jr. is another member of the basketball team who has displayed leadership qualities.

The junior, transfer out of Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, is averaging 16.2 point per game for FIU, which ranks eighth in scoring in C-USA. Beard Jr. is complementing his consistency scoring by averaging 5.7 assists per game.

On the defensive side of the ball, Beard Jr. has been an absolute terror for opposing offenses. The junior, following the game against Charlotte, broke the school-record for steals in a season with 88.

Point guard Brian Beard, Jr. (4) drives into the lane against the Rice Owls on Feb. 24 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. (Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press)

The point guard has also shown that in crunch time he can come up big against the opposition. The junior hit a game-winning three pointer in the final ten seconds to elevate the Panthers past the Bulldogs against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 3.

Beard Jr.’s clutch performance and his stellar play so far in the season led him to be named C-USA Player of the Week following the win.

FIU is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the conference standings, and will likely secure a spot ranging from the sixth to the eight seed.

The C-USA men’s basketball tournament will begin on Wednesday, March 7, at the Ford Center in Frisco, TX. The winner will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

1 Comment on "Journey to the Tourney: Panthers’ basketball prepares for the C-USA Tournament"

  1. Thanks, Joe!

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