Will Duval | Sports Director
The FIU men’s basketball team looks to snap their three-game losing streak against the Kennesaw State Owls on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
Returning home from the Cayman Islands Classic tournament, the Panthers came in eighth place in the tournament after losing all three of their games. They fell to 1-6 on the season following a 61-60 loss to the Loyola Marymount Lions on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
LMU entered the matchup with a 2-3 record following back-to-back losses in the tournament. Fighting for seventh place in the tournament, they came out of the gates ready to attack, as they dominated the majority of the first half.
Both teams exchanged baskets to start off the game and neither was able to gain leverage until the 13-minute marker.
Junior guard Dominick Harris drained a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 14-10 lead, their largest of the game up to that point.
While LMU was finding their footing on offense, FIU went on a cold-streak and struggled to make shots to answer back. Missing three 3-pointers in a two minute span, they fell into a 21-12 deficit.
Able to maintain an approximately ten-point margin for the remainder of the first half, the Lions held a 41-30 lead at halftime. Fifth year guard Justice Hill blocked sophomore guard Arturo Dean’s buzzer-beating shot attempt and protected their double-digit lead.
Coming out of halftime, the game remained on its course from the first half, as the Panthers struggled to chip away at their opponent’s lead. The score sat at 51-40 with 12:45 remaining in the game.
Once the clock hit the 12-minute mark, FIU flipped a switch and finally strung together multiple productive offensive possessions. In only 90 seconds, they scored eight unanswered points and brought their deficit within three points.
Attempting to reignite LMU’s offense, freshman forward Aaron McBride responded with a layup to give them a 53-48 lead. However, one basket wouldn’t be enough to keep up with their opponent’s offensive run.
Sophomore guard Dashon Gittens connected on a 3-pointer to bring the score within two points. On their next possession, senior center Seth Pinkney was fouled and made a free throw, putting the score at 53-52.
In an attempt to take the lead, Dean got a steal and took a jumpshot on the fastbreak. He missed the shot, but Gittens grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on a layup to give FIU a 54-53 lead.
With their backs against the wall, the Lions got back on track and began to score once again. For the remainder of the game, no team opened up a lead larger than three points.
Providing the Panthers with another timely basket, Gittens hit a jump shot in the paint to give them a 60-57 lead with 1:01 remaining.
Within seven seconds, Pinkney fouled senior guard Justin Wright and sent him to the free throw line. He converted on both of his attempts and brought the score to 60-59.
On their final possession, Wright drove into the paint and made a layup to give them a 61-60 lead with only four seconds remaining in the game.
Unable to match the clutch basket, FIU lost the game and got swept in the Cayman Islands Classic tournament.
Leading their offense, Gittens finished with 19 points and made nine of his 15 shots. Matching him in shot attempts, Dean struggled to find an offensive rhythm, as he finished with ten points on 4-15 shooting.
Looking to turn around their 1-6 start to the season, the Panthers are returning to their home court to take on the KSU Owls on Sunday, Nov. 26.
KSU comes into the matchup holding a 4-2 record following an 85-84 loss to East Carolina on Tuesday, Nov. 21. In that game, they had five players score in double figures.
Senior guard Terrell Burden led the team with 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Despite his 5-10 frame, he found ways to score in the paint and grab a substantial amount of rebounds.
However, while Burden had a standout performance, he is not the team’s leading scorer this season. Sophomore guard Simeon Cottle is the Owls’ leading scorer this season and averages 15.7 points per game.
Cottle and Burden are two of the four players that average over ten points per game for KSU. They find their offense through sharing the ball and relying on their teammates.
If FIU wishes to leave this matchup victorious, they must force their opponent into inefficiency and not settle for bad shots.
As a team, the Owls shoot 42.2% from the field and 29.4% from 3-point territory. A large portion of their points comes from 2-pointers, so forcing them into shots they don’t like taking should be a major point of emphasis.
FIU must also keep up with their opponent’s rebounding, as KSU grabs 47 rebounds per game. They average more rebounds than their opponents, as they only allow 42 rebounds per game.
When comparing it to the rebounding of the Panthers, they collect 30 rebounds per game and allow 37.6 per game to opponents. If they wish to keep up with the Owls offense, they can’t give them second chance opportunities.
Looking to snap their three-game losing streak, the FIU men’s basketball team is taking on the KSU Owls on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
Tip off is set for 6 p.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.
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