FIU Men’s Basketball Conference Update

Guard Eric Lovett shooting a three against UAB. Jared Parker/PantherNOW

Alex Rivera/Staff Writer

When the Panthers left Miami for the first time for conference play in Texas, they lost two games away. A week later, the Panthers would sweep a weekend. And these last two weeks the Panthers would win one game, and lose the other. 

FIU started play last week against a 3-5 Marshall Herd, and by most metrics, it was the Panthers’ to lose. And they did. But it was anyone’s game going into the sixth minute of the second half, FIU was out performing the Herd when it came to rebounds and three-point percentage, Osaghae contributing a quarter of the 44 rebounds and Trejon Jacob scoring 23 points.

With three minutes left in the game, FIU was behind 80-66, ultimately to lose 84-74. It was the first home loss the Panthers faced this season. 

But at the same time, in Boca Raton, the FAU Owls defeated Western Kentucky 69-65. That game, which started with FAU behind by 10 proved to be a closer game than expected, and ending the Hilltoppers five game winning streak. 

At noon on Saturday, the Panthers returned to face Western Kentucky, and much like the game against the Owls, WKU was expected to win.

But after 10 minutes into the first half, FIU was able to build and maintain a lead over the Hilltoppers, going into halftime 45-36. It was with two minutes left that WKU narrowed the lead, but ultimately the Panthers would win 81-76. 

After this weekend, the Panthers sit fourth in the C-USA standings at 6-4, behind WKU, North Texas and Louisiana Tech. Of those teams, FIU has only yet to play Louisiana Tech. Below the Panthers, FAU and Charlotte at 6-4 as well. If these standings hold, the Panthers would get a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament.

FIU is scheduled to play four more games before conference bonus play, three of which will be away games against Louisiana Tech, FAU and Southern Miss.

FIU at this point can no longer decide their own destiny when it comes to getting the bye, but there are clearly teams that FIU would like to see win games to help secure that bye. 

For the moment, so long as FIU can manage winning, the Panthers would like to see the following happen:  UTEP, UTSA, Rice winning their two games this week, a Southern Miss win against Marshall, though a win against WKU would be welcome but not necessary.

If FIU is comfortable with being the number four seed, WKU and North Texas can continue their winning ways. 

Looking into this week, the Panthers will be playing against their travel partners FAU in a home and away series.

The first will take place at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center at 7 pm, where it’ll be Roary Day.

The second game will take place at the FAU Arena at 4 pm. Winning both games would go a long way in terms of FIU distancing themselves away from the teams below them in the standings and securing a place in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals.

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