Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer
The FIU men’s basketball team looks to find another conference victory at home as they face off with the UTEP Miners on Saturday Jan. 13, 2024, in Miami, Florida.
Entering this matchup, the Panthers hold a 6-11 record,with five of their six wins coming on their home court. In their previous game, they took a 77-67 victory over the New Mexico State Aggies on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.
Never wavering in their efforts throughout the night, FIU stole the lead in the first half and didn’t look back. Through their laser-like precision from 3-point distance in the first half, they were able to outscore their opponent in both halves of play.
To open up the game, the Panthers attacked the perimeter and knocked down four consecutive 3-pointers. After making their first four 3-pointers, they continued to show off their long distance shooting abilities throughout the half.
In the first half alone, FIU went 10-16 from beyond the arc, resulting in a 62.5% 3-point percentage. The majority of their 3-point makes and attempts came in the first half, as they shot 3-8 from deep in the second half.
Despite their less potent second half in terms of shooting, they still outscored the Aggies 39-37. Due to their ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line, the Panthers were able to maintain their advantage.
When compared to their first half, FIU’s second half showcased a more physical and gritty side of play. As a team, they went 22-28 from the free-throw line in the second half, far passing their four attempts in the first half.
Making adjustments based on what the game calls for, the Panthers’ evolving game plan allowed them to take a 77-67 victory over NMSU.
Senior guard Javaunte Hawkins led all scorers with 20-points and made five of his six 3-point attempts. His accuracy from both the field and long distance provided the offense with a consistent scoring option throughout the night.
Outside of Hawkins, sophomore guard Dashon Gittens was the game’s second leading scorer, as he finished with 17-points. Most of his points came from the free-throw line, as he shot 11-12 on his free throws and 2-3 on his shot attempts.
Due to the efficiency of FIU’s two leading scorers, they were able to withstand a 3-11 shooting performance from sophomore guard Arturo Dean. Despite his shooting struggles, he still made an impact with 11-points, six rebounds and five assists.
“One of the big differences in the game was our 3-point shooting,” said head coach Jeremy Ballard in the post-game press conference. Over the entire game, they went 13-24 on their 3-pointers and made five more than the Aggies.
Winning their second consecutive home game, the Panthers look to continue their hot shooting into their upcoming game against UTEP.
Coming into this matchup, the Miners bolster a 9-7 record and took a 74-69 victory over the Chicago State Cougars in their game prior on Sunday, Jan. 7. In that matchup, they received an all-around team contribution, as four players scored in double-figures.
Senior guard Tae Hardy led UTEP in scoring and finished with 13-points and connected on all three of his 3-point attempts. He holds the highest scoring average on the team, as he averages 14.7-points per game and shoots 39.5% from deep.
Against the Cougars, the Miners found success by playing at their own pace and shooting the ball accurately. Over the entire game, they shot 52% from the field and 58% from 3-point distance.
However, their high 3-point percentage isn’t the result of a dominant shooting performance, it’s the result of a low volume. They only took 12-3-pointers over the whole game, with seven resulting in makes.
Mathematically, their long distance shooting only accounted for 21 of their 74-points in the game. While it’s still nearly a third of their points, it shows that UTEP scores the majority of their points inside-the-arc.
This season, they average 75.1-PPG as a team and don’t favor 3-point shooting statistically. On only 5.3 attempts per game, they hold a 29.7% 3-point percentage, which is far below their team field goal percentage.
Proving to prefer inside scoring, the Miners shoot 45.7% from the field, with their low volume of 3-point makes and attempts playing a small factor.
If FIU wishes to leave this matchup victorious, they must force their opponent into playing outside of their comfort zone. UTEP struggles to play with pace and keep up with 3-point shooting, taking advantage of those weaknesses could lead to success.
Beyond team execution, the Panthers need a standout individual performance from one of their main contributors. Having a consistent shot-making threat creates spacing due to the defensive attention they draw.
Over his last five games, Hawkins has averaged 19.8-points per game and is shooting 46% from 3-point distance. His high shooting percentage also came on a high volume of shots, as he averaged 3.6-made 3-pointers per game and 7.8-attempts per game.
Leaning on Hawkins’ hot-hand could prove to be beneficial, as he has shown the ability to lead the offense over their last five games. However, basketball is a team sport and they will need more than just one standout performance in order to win any game.
Looking to continue their offensive dominance, the FIU men’s basketball team is hosting the UTEP Miners on Saturday Jan. 13, 2024, 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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