Panther Preview: FIU men’s basketball vs. LA Tech

Junior forward Isaiah Crawford for LA Tech (left) and graduate forward Nick Guadarrama for FIU (right). Photos courtesy of FIU and LA Tech Athletics.

Brian Olmo | Sports Director

FIU men’s basketball embarks on a two-game road stint to wrap up the season, starting with a matchup against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on March 2, 2023, at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, Louisiana.

Last time the Panthers were on the court, they extended their four-game losing streak with a loss to the UTSA Roadrunners, 95-91. LA Tech is trying to snap their own six-game skid, which coincidentally started when FIU beat them 66-62 on Feb. 9.

Both teams salivate for a win and see this game as the perfect opportunity to earn one.

Scouting the Bulldogs means analyzing their dynamic duo on offense: junior forward Isaiah Crawford and junior guard Keaston Willis.

Junior guard Cobe Williams was LA Tech’s star and the fourth-highest scorer in Conference USA, averaging 18.8 points per game. However, he is no longer with the team, citing personal reasons. His absence is a massive blow and likely explains the Bulldogs’ current struggles.

Not far behind Williams in scoring is Crawford, who’s putting up 13.3 PPG as the eighth-best scorer in C-USA. He’s also No. 13 in rebounding, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game.

Crawford is a unique athletic talent, possessing a 6-6, 220-pound frame with a 7’0 wingspan. He is an efficient 3-point shooter, clocking in at 43.3% from deep, and a criminally underrated perimeter defender, whose active hands get him 2.1 steals per game.

A key element of Crawford’s game is his ability to drive in and use his long strides and strength to muscle through opposing defenders. He is an excellent finisher who embraces contact.

Willis is the team’s undisputed sharpshooter, coming in at fourth in both 3-point field goal percentage with a 37.8% clip and made 3-point field goals per game with 2.5. He leads the Bulldogs this season with 71 made threes. This is one man that the Panthers can’t afford to leave undefended.

LA Tech heads into this one as the fifth-ranked offense and sixth-ranked defense. The team is solid in all departments except one: their opponent 3-point percentage. The Bulldogs allow a 3-point percentage of 36.9%, dead last in C-USA.

This will be a close game, with both teams having strengths and weaknesses. FIU’s chances hinge on two factors: sophomore guard Denver Jones and the team’s ability to hit their 3-pointers.

Jones struggled in his last game, going 2-10 from the field, 1-4 from three and committing four turnovers. This poor performance is an outlier for Jones, who averages 19.9 PPG as the second-highest scorer in the conference.

Regardless, the Panthers will need their star guard to get back in rhythm.

FIU as a team needs to hit their 3-pointers. It’s been a poor season from beyond the arc for the Panthers, coming in second-to-last in the conference for both 3-point percentage and made threes.

With no clear indication of this being a blowout, it’s anyone’s game. Expect the scores to be close.


FIU: 69
LA Tech: 65

Follow Brian Olmo on Twitter at @Brian_Olmo11

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