Will Duval | Sports Director
The FIU men’s basketball team is traveling to Boca Raton, Florida to face off with FAU Owls on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.
Entering this matchup, the Panthers hold a 3-7 record and are coming off a 74-59 victory over the Long Island Sharks on Saturday, Dec. 2. In that game, they held the lead through the entire game and held onto it through the finish line.
From the opening tip, FIU was able to build a substantial lead with their high pace of play on offense and active hands on defense.
While only shooting 35.29% from the field in the first half, they outscored their opponent 31-24. Due to a high volume of turnovers, the Sharks forfeited a large number of their possessions and struggled to stop fastbreak offense on the other end.
Beyond turning the ball over, they also couldn’t shoot the ball at an efficient rate, as they only made one of their seven 3-point attempts in the first half.
To start the second half, LIU came out of the locker room ready to correct their previous errors. Near the 12-minute marker, graduate student guard Tai Strickland made a jump-shot to cut their deficit down to 44-40.
Despite their efforts to climb back into the game, the Panthers still maintained a firm control of the game.
Remaining consistent with their play in the first half, they continued to attack passing lanes and created fastbreak opportunities with steals.
Their two-way attack was led by sophomore guard Arturo Dean, who led the team in steals and accounted for seven of their 19 steals in the game.
Much of his defense led to offensive opportunities, as he also totaled a team-high 27 points and dished out four assists.
Junior forward Okechukwu Okeke provided the team with substantial minutes off the bench and finished with a career-high 13 points. Beyond his offensive contributions, he also acted as a defensive anchor, as he accumulated three steals and two blocks.
Asserting their dominance on both sides of the ball, FIU took a 74-59 victory over LIU and won their second game over a three-game span.
Ball security was the deciding factor of the game, as the Sharks were forced into 27 turnovers in the game while the Panthers only sacrificed 15.
Looking to keep their newfound momentum alive, they’re taking on the FAU Owls in their next game on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Going into their matchup against FIU, the Owls hold a 7-2 record and are ranked No. 15 in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Top 25 rankings. At one point in the season, they were ranked as highly as No. 10, but have since fallen in the standings.
In their previous game on Tuesday, Dec. 5, they took a 98-89 loss to the No. 16 Illinois Fighting Illini. Entering the game, Illinois was ranked No. 20 in the NCAA rankings, but the victory moved them up to the No. 16 spot and moved their FAU down four spots.
Despite their offensive efficiency and high volume of scoring, the Owls struggled to create defensive pressure. They allowed the Fighting Illini to shoot 63.2% from the field and 40% from beyond-the-arc.
Comparatively, FAU shot 46.88% from the field and 39.1% from 3-point distance. While they made one more 3-pointer and two more free throws than their opponent, it was not enough to make up for the discrepancy on the scoreboard.
Even though they couldn’t leave the game victorious, they still had five players score 10 points or more in the game.
Junior center Vladislav Goldin finished with a team-high 23 points, but fouled out in only 19 minutes of action, the lowest among starters in the game.
Besides Goldin’s contributions, junior guard Johnell Davis finished with 19 points on 7-12 shooting. His offense came efficiently throughout the entire game, as he also made three out of his four 3-point attempts.
If the Panthers wish to leave this rivalry matchup with a victory, they must force their opponent into a high volume of turnovers and overall offensive efficiency.
As a team, the Owls average 84.4 points per game, shoot 50.5% from the field and 10.9 turnovers per game. Proving themselves as a high-scoring, high-efficiency team, they often play at their own offensive rhythm.
When looking at FIU, they average 72 PPG and shoot 44% from the field. By comparison, they struggle to take care of the ball, as they average 16.3 TOPG.
However, offensive efficiency isn’t necessarily their gameplan.
Where the Panthers find their opportunities is on the defensive side of the ball, as they average 13.2 steals per game. Nationally, that would rank eleventh in the NCAA, however they are not credited for it on the NCAA’s website.
FIU has the chance to leave victorious by forcing FAU into a high number of turnovers and using those opportunities to score.
Trying to keep their newly established momentum, the FIU men’s basketball team is traveling to Boca Raton, Florida to take on the FAU Owls on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at Abessinio Court at Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.