Men’s basketball looks to rebound from 0-3 start against HCU

Sophomore guard Arturo Dean preparing to shoot a free throw. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Pablo Hernandez | Assistant Sports Director

The FIU Panthers are looking to snap a three game losing streak against the Houston Christian Huskies in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

After facing off with the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes on Monday, Nov. 13, the Panthers took an 86-80 loss and fell to 0-3 on the season. That marks the worst start the program has  had since bringing in head coach Jeremy Ballard in 2018.

Despite taking a close loss, FIU battled with the Hurricanes and led at one point in the game. Unable to hold on against a nationally ranked opponent, they still managed to play their best game statistically this season.

Vs. Miami:

Miami came into the game holding a 2-0 record and were ranked No. 12 in the NCAA’s Associated Press top 25 rankings. They took a 88-72 victory over the UCF Knights in their previous game on Friday, Nov. 10.

Starting off the game attacking on offense, they were able to jump out to a 17-point lead within the first 11 minutes of the game.

Both teams exchanged baskets until the score sat at 14-11, with the Panthers trailing by a small margin. With 13 minutes remaining in the half, the Hurricanes went on to score 14 unanswered points over the next four minutes.

Junior guard Wooga Poplar scored ten of the team’s 14 points in that span and helped push them to a 28-11 lead.

Falling into a substantial deficit, the Panthers needed to play two-way basketball in order to climb back into the game.

Slowly but surely, they chipped away at Miami’s lead and brought the score within two points by halftime. They closed out the half by going on a 14-3 scoring run and put the score at 41-39.

Carrying their momentum into the second half, they went on a 14-0 scoring run over the first four minutes.

Attacking on offense, sophomore guards Arturo Dean and Dashon Gittens scored five points each. Combining for ten of the team’s 14, senior center Seth Pinkney scored the remaining four points after making both of his layups.

Holding a 53-41 lead on the scoreboard, FIU held their first multiple-possession lead of the game. 

Responding immediately, the Hurricanes went on an even larger scoring run.

Led by junior guard Matthew Cleveland, they scored 19 unanswered points and only needed four minutes to reclaim the lead. Cleveland hit two 3-pointers in that stretch, with his second being the game-tying shot.

Jumping out to a 60-53 lead, they never looked back for the remainder of the game. Despite the Panthers efforts on both ends, they weren’t able to shrink their deficit to less than two points.

Taking an 86-80 loss, their season record dropped to 0-3 after facing off with a ranked team. 

While they were unable to leave the matchup with a win, FIU had their most efficient performance of the season and shot 45.1% from the field. They also registered their highest number of threes made this season, making 11 in the game on 33.3% efficiency.

Improving on their hustle stats, they out-rebounded the Hurricanes 34-32 and won the turnover battle 10-14. In their previous game, they were out-rebounded 42-27 by the UCF Knights. 

Dean had his most efficient performance of the season, as he finished with 19 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.

In a two-day turnaround from the loss, they are traveling to Houston for a road game against HCU.

Vs. HCU:

Last facing off in the Panther’s 2022 season opener, the Huskies took a 77-66 loss on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. 

Dean was FIU’s second leading scorer and finished with 19 points on 9-15 shooting. Guard Denver Jones led all scorers with 23 points, but since then, he departed the team in the summer to join the Auburn Tigers. 

This season, HCU has only played one game, which resulted in a 110-63 loss to the BYU Cougars on Monday, Nov. 6.

Rebounding, turnovers and 3-point shooting differentiated the two teams and is ultimately what led to their loss.

BYU won the battle for all three statistical categories, out-rebounding them 59-25 and committed six less turnovers. They also hit 12 more 3-pointers, as the Huskies could only knock down three all game.

Unable to find 3-point shooting efficiency, they only made 18.8% of their threes on 16 total attempts. Despite their low efficiency, they still finished the game with a 43.3% field goal percentage.

Junior guard Marcus Greene led the team in scoring with 18 points on 8-15 shooting. On the other end, they allowed three Cougars to score more than 15 points.

If the Panthers wish to leave this matchup victorious, they must build upon their improvements from their game against Miami. Winning the rebounding battle and committing fewer turnovers than their opponent allowed them to stay in the game.

Another aspect they must focus on is defending without fouling and connecting on their 3-pointers. When HCU lost all of those categories, they lost their only game this season.

On the season, FIU shoots an average of 27.7% from beyond the arc, with their 33.3% performance being a season high. 

Looking for their first win of the season, the FIU men’s basketball team is traveling to Houston, Texas to take on the Houston Christian Huskies on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. 

Tip off is set for 8 p.m. at Sharp Gym and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.


FIU: 80

HCU: 72

Follow Pablo Hernandez on X: @pablitothree

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