By Brett Shweky/Sports Director
Fueled by their high paced offense and their intense defense, first-year head coach Jeremy Ballard and the FIU men’s basketball team tip-offed the 2018-2019 season with a dominating 110-84 win over the Webber International Warriors on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center.
“Great first win. The guys gave me a Gatorade bath which I appreciate,” said Ballard. “It’s great for all of our players to get that game under our belt and to see what the style of play is like.”
Coming into the contest, the Panthers won five-consecutive season openers and held a 23-14 all-time record in opening games.
With the win, the Panthers (1-0) now hold a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series against the Warriors (2-1).
FIU reached the 100-point mark for the first time since Jan. 30, 2005, when the Panthers accomplished the feat against UALR in a 118-114 five-overtime game.
The last time the team scored a 100 points in regulation was on Feb. 26, 1998 in a 101-74 win against Centenary.
Ballard’s first starting lineup as the Panthers’ head coach included guards Brian Beard, Trejon Jacob and Marcus Burwell along with forward Devon Andrews and center Elhadji Dieng.
To start the game, FIU went on a quick 9-0 run as Andrews led the run with four points.
Andrews played his first collegiate game since the 2016-2017 season after taking off a season for personal reasons.
“At first I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t played in a while,” said Andrews. “But I just took some advice. I’ve been listening to Brian [Beard, Jr.], the senior point guard, he’s been pushing me. My adrenaline was going so I let the game come to me.”
The six-foot-six forward last played for Pratt Community College where averaged 22.0 points and 6.3 rebounds-per-game.
The redshirt junior throughout the game continued his scoring success as he ended the night with 23 points along with five rebounds and four assists.
Almost midway through the first half, the Panthers held a commanding 29-15 advantage through crisp and precise passing that turned into assists.
Beard, Jr was the lead facilitator through this span as the senior guard had a team-high five assists.
This trend continued throughout the game with Beard, Jr finishing the contest with nine assists. The senior guard contributed with 20 points as well to help the team in scoring.
Jacob also scored 19 points to help fuel the Panthers’ offense.
FIU’s defense fueled the team’s offense in the first half as the Panthers managed to score 20 points off the Warriors’ 16 turnovers.
The defense ended the game with 16 steals and also seven blocks.
Along with the team’s defensive intensity, the Panthers also benefited from their fast pace scoring with 17 fast break points in the opening half.
“Our guys are bought into the mentality that we want to play,” Ballard said. “They’re in attack mode the entire time which is what we want to do. We never want to let our foot off the gas. We want to be as distributive as possible.”
At the halfway mark, FIU boasted a 52.2 shooting percentage to help them lead the Warriors 57-42.
Five minutes into the second half, the Panthers continued their high pace of play as they extended their lead to 69-49.
The Panthers held a 22-point lead with 7:45 remaining in the second half and managed to keep the Warriors at bay for the remainder of the game.
Webber International heading into the game held a 2-0 record and were fresh-off an 86-76 victory against Southeastern Baptist on Wednesday, Nov. 3.
Guard Tommie Luke has been the leading scorer for the Warriors with him coming into the matchup averaging 18.5 points-per-game.
The Panthers’ defense limited Luke from having a successful night as the sophomore ended the game with 13 points on five of 13 shooting.
Freshman Antonio Daye, Jr. and sophomore Isaiah Banks came off the Panthers and each added 14 points.
Daye, Jr. played in his first collegiate game, and despite the early foul trouble, the freshman finished with eight rebounds and two steals to go along with his scoring.
Next, up for FIU, the team will continue their home stand as they host Johnson & Wales on Friday, Nov. 9 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.