William Duval | Contributing Writer
After leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, FIU dropped their final home game of the year, losing to the UTSA Roadrunners 95-91 on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Ocean Bank Convocation Center.
For the Roadrunners, this game had plenty of emotional significance, as they previously lost to the Panthers on Jan. 21, ending with a close score of 77-72.
Considering UTSA’s record, being the worst in Conference USA, the only thing they had to lose was their pride, which was one of their key factors towards getting a win.
The game would start with the Panthers appearing energized and motivated from the opening tip. FIU would find themselves in many fastbreak opportunities, due to some sloppy passing from UTSA. Whenever the Roadrunners would inbound the ball, the Panthers would be pressing the ball-handler, forcing shaky full-court passes, leading to loose balls.
Offensively, the Panthers were on fire during the first half. Ball movement and fastbreak opportunities led to many easy opportunities to score, with FIU finding themselves shooting 8-12 from three by halftime. Graduate guard John Williams Jr. was a large reason for the stellar shooting, as he went 4-4 from three and finished the half with 18 points.
Not only were the Panthers shooting threes well, they would enter halftime shooting over 58 percent from the field and with a 56-42 lead.
The second half of play wouldn’t continue being so generous to the Panthers.
UTSA would come out of the half with new energy to their team, forcing many turnovers and missed shots for the Panthers. The Roadrunners were creating their own opportunities from FIU’s errors, finding a multitude of ways to score. While the Panthers were playing with defensive effort, they were getting severely outrebounded.
Rebounding was an unspoken issue for the Panthers in the first half. The steals and errors they would create often overshadowed the rebounding differential. In the second half, UTSA would use rebounding as their greatest weapon against FIU.
The Roadrunners are by no stretch an offensively efficient team. Having the lowest field goal percentage in the conference further backs up that notion. However, their ability to rebound leads to offensive explosions against teams that cannot match it.
Senior forward Jacob Germany spearheaded UTSA’s comeback, as he seemed to grab every available offensive rebound in the second half. He would finish the game with 18 rebounds, grabbing 11 in the second half. Many of Germany’s offensive rebounds would lead to putbacks, as he would record 10 of his 16 points in the second half.
The Roadrunners would also find success in picking the Panthers’ pockets. Sophomore guard Christian Tucker and senior guard Japhet Medor each recorded four steals in the second half for UTSA. Medor would finish the game with five total steals, severely tormenting the Panthers’ offense all night long.
While the second half was painful for the Panthers, there were still some bright spots for their offense.
Sophomore guard Petar Krivokapic provided tremendous relief for FIU, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Whenever the Panthers would fall behind, Krivokapic was always there to hit the shot to give them the lead. His contributions would always feel as if they were perfectly timed, as he would go 3-3 from three in the second half, and get fouled on a potentially game-tying 3-point attempt late in the game.
Krivokapic would tie the game at 91-91 after making all three free throws, with 39.2 seconds remaining in the game. Unfortunately, FIU’s sloppy play would come back and carry over through the rest of the game.
The Panthers would go on to lose to the Roadrunners 95-91, with their fate being sealed by way of free throws.
In what was a painful second half of play, FIU ended their season at home on a rather bitter note.
Looking to finish the season strong, the Panthers will be taking on Louisiana Tech on March 2, 2023, at 7 p.m. at Thomas Assembly Center.
Most Valuable Players:
Jacob Germany (UTSA): 16 points, 18 rebounds, 6-6 FT
Japhet Medor (UTSA): 13 points, 9 assists, 5 steals
Petar Krivokapic (FIU): 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4-5 3PT