Adrian Benitez | Contributing Writer
The FIU men’s basketball team is closing out a three game home stand and taking on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 in Miami, Florida.
Entering this matchup, the Panthers hold a 8-15 record after taking a 68-61 win over the Sam Houston Bearkats on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. In that game, they rallied from behind and overcame a 10-point deficit to secure a win at home.
Vs. Sam Houston:
To open up the game, senior guard Javaunte Hawkins knocked down a 3-pointer and scored FIU’s first five points.
However, their hot start on offense was short lived, as the Bearkats went on a 12-3 scoring run immediately after. Able to build both momentum and a lead before halftime, they entered the break with a 36-26 advantage.
Coming out of halftime, both teams exchanged blows on the offensive end, with junior guard Jaiden Lipscomb scoring the Panthers’ first seven points of the period. Despite his efforts, SHSU still held a 46-35 lead with over 15-minutes left to play.
After a TV-timeout, FIU emerged from the huddle energized and went on a 21-5 run. Senior center Seth Pinkney finished it off with an emphatic dunk and gave them a 56-51 lead with six minutes remaining.
Unwilling to let up, the Bearkats fought tooth-and-nail to keep the game’s score within their reach. With 1:58 remaining in the game, the score sat at 60-59, as the Panthers’ lead was cut to one point.
Providing the team with a cushion, junior guard Petar Krivokapic drove into the paint and scored on a layup. His score marked the beginning of a late-game offensive explosion from FIU, as Lipscomb secured a steal and score on their next possession.
Hawkins sealed the deal and knocked down a 3-pointer, which extended their lead to eight points with 35-seconds remaining. Able to secure a 68-61 advantage on the scoreboard, the Panthers’ comeback was complete and led them to victory.
Krivokapic led the way in their rally from behind and knocked down four 3-pointers in the second half alone. For the game, finished with a team-high 18-points and pulled down four rebounds.
Beyond his contributions, Hawkins nearly put up a double-double, as he finished with 11-points, nine assists and four rebounds. His game-clinching 3-pointer marked his 185th of his career and set a new program record in career 3-pointers made.
On the heels of a gritty win, FIU looks to pick up their second win in a row in their next game against the Blue Raiders.
Coming into this game, MTSU holds an 8-14 record and took an 88-65 loss in their previous matchup against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Feb. 3.
Despite entering halftime with the score tied, the Blue Raiders were outscored 50-27 in the second half. The loss moved their conference record to 2-6 and dropped them to the bottom of the Conference USA standings.
Their most recent win came at their home court against the Panthers on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. While the score was close to start, the Blue Raiders took advantage of a series of second half mistakes from their opponent to pull out a 79-61 victory.
As a team, MTSU struggles on the offensive side of the ball and rank last in the conference in total points scored. Only scoring over 70-points in six games this season, they average 63.4-points per game, the least in Conference USA.
Most of their offensive game plan is predicated around shooting 3-pointers, as they have attempted 517 this year, the third most in the conference. Despite their high volume, they only convert on 28.5% of their 3-pointers and rank last in the conference.
If FIU wishes to leave this matchup victorious, they must capitalize on the Blue Raiders’ offensive miscommunications and force turnovers.Through containing their opponent’s offense and avoiding the unforced errors, they have the opportunity to collect their second win in a row.
Looking to carry their momentum into this game, the FIU men’s basketball team is hosting the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 in Miami, Florida.
Tip off is set for 2 p.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Follow Adrian Benitez on X: @ab305FIU