Woeful Weekend Away for the Panthers

Osasumwen Osaghae at the free throw line during the Panthers home game against FAU. Dalton Tevlin/PantherNOW

Alex Rivera/Staff Writer 

The Panthers had just come from their sweep against FAU, and with momentum on their side, they looked to continue their winning ways in Ruston and Hattiesburg. But after Saturday’s game, the outlook for FIU had decreased entering conference bonus play. 

Thursday, the Panthers went to Ruston to take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The first half of the game saw the Panther have flashes of greatness. They were able to come from a deficit to a huge lead over the Bulldogs after a 17-0 run. But after LA Tech responded with tying and then taking the lead, the game would switch back and forth between who was ahead. 

Ultimately, the game became one in which whoever had the lead with a minute to go and had possession would get the win. Thursday night, it was not the Panthers. The Panthers went six for 25 when it came to three-pointers and only made just more than half of the free throws. 

After their loss to the Bulldogs, the Panthers went to Hattiesburg to play the 4-9 Southern Miss Golden Eagles, who had been at the bottom of the C-USA standings entering the week. That said, that Thursday the Golden Eagles defeated the Owls 68-66. But Saturday afternoon the Panthers would take a seven-point lead over Southern Miss, but six minutes into the game, the lead was lost and was never found again. 

Before this week, Southern Miss was on the outside looking in for making the post-season tournament at having just three wins. Entering the game, ESPN had the win probability at 62.8% in favor of FIU. Devon Andrews would score 24 points and Antonio Daye Jr. would score 21 points. Osasumwen Osaghae would be injured on the break in the first minute of the game and would not return for the remainder of the game. The final score for the game would be 75-67, a win for Southern Miss.

Although the Panthers lost both games and finished the week with a 8-6 record, it was enough for the team to finish fifth in the C-USA rankings. This would put the Panthers in the top group for conference bonus play. Bonus play will consist of fourth games, two at home and two away. The teams will be: North Texas, Charlotte, Louisiana Tech, and Western Kentucky. Of the four teams, the Panthers were only able to defeat the Hilltoppers.

This week, FIU will not play any games. The first game of bonus play will be held at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center on February 27th at 7pm against North Texas. The last time the two met it was in Denton, Texas in early January. It was a 74-56 loss for the Panthers and the first conference loss of the season. This time with the Panthers at home, the outcome could be different with how strong the Panthers have been at home. 

The second game will be against the Charlotte 49ers, in Charlotte. The result of their last meeting was an FIU loss, 75-49. That game will take place on March 1st at 2pm. Unlike their game against North Texas, homecourt advantage will not be a factor in their benefit. 

In this stretch of conference bonus play, the best thing the Panthers can do is win their remaining games, which is easier said than done. But in the meantime, Coach Jeremy Ballard will have over a week to get a game plan together with how to approach these crucial upcoming games.

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