Men’s basketball looks to snap three game losing streak against Liberty

Junior forward Mohamed Sanogo shooting a jump-shot. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Andres Rodriguez | Contributing Writer

The FIU’s men’s basketball team is returning home from a two game road trip and taking on the Liberty Flames on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Miami, Florida. 

After concluding their road trip with a 75-68 loss to the LA Tech Bulldogs on Saturday, Feb. 17, the Panthers record fell to 8-18 on the season. The defeat marked their third loss in a row and their seventh over their last eight games.

Vs. LA Tech:

To open up the game, FIU looked to establish a fast pace and play at a high intensity. On their first offensive possession, senior guard Javaunte Hawkins threw a lob to senior center Seth Pinkney, who slammed in a ferocious dunk.

Despite the Panthers’ attempt to quickly capture the game’s momentum, the Bulldogs swiftly responded and built a substantial lead. With 8:48 remaining in the half, graduate student guard Tahlik Chavez drained a 3-pointer and gave them a 27-12 lead.

Unable to keep up with the shooting and efficiency of their opponent, FIU shot 4-11 from long distance in the first half. Comparatively, LA Tech went 5-7 from 3-point distance, which helped bolster their 43-26 lead by halftime.

Looking to turn things around in the second half, sophomore guard Arturo Dean displayed his athleticism and scored with a slick finish at the basket. Despite his 13-points at the time, the team still faced a 16-point deficit.

While the Panthers eventually made an effort to rally from behind, it came far too late in the game. With 3:31 left to play, Hawkins scored on a layup and brought the score to 69-61, but the lead they initially sacrificed proved to be too large. 

Due to the discrepancy in both 3-point makes and efficiency, FIU took a 75-68 loss to the Bulldogs. Their lack of defensive intensity and their shooting inefficiencies in the first half allowed their opponent to build an insurmountable lead.

Aside from the game’s end result, Dean was one of the team’s only reliable options for the entire night. Providing them with a two-way effort, he finished with 19-points, 12-rebounds, and three steals.

Junior guard Petar Krivokapic also made an impact and was accountable for nearly half of the Panthers’ made 3-pointers. He finished with 17-points off the bench and converted on four of his six 3-point attempts.

As a team, FIU’s shots couldn’t find the bottom of the net, as they finished with a 37% field goal percentage and 34.6% 3-point percentage. While their long distance shooting was above their 33.1% season average, their high volume of attempts diluted its affect. 

Defensively, they allowed LA Tech to make 60% of their 3-pointers, with five of their six makes coming in the first half. Their slower pace and smarter shot selection is what ultimately led to their victory.

Trying to bounce back from their third loss in a row, the Panthers return home to host Liberty in their next game.

Vs. Liberty:

Coming into this matchup, the Flames hold a 16-10 season record and are ranked fourth in Conference USA. In their most recent matchup with the Sam Houston Bearkats on Saturday, Feb. 17, took an 83-73 loss and had their three game win streak snapped.

Although they had four players score double-figures, it still wasn’t enough to overcome their opponent. Redshirt junior guard Kaden Metheny led the team with 19-points and shot 6-12 from the field.

In their previous matchup against FIU on Jan. 18, Liberty emerged victorious with a 78-69 win. Redshirt senior forward Kyle Rode finished with 19-points and was one of four players to finish with a double-digit scoring total.

If the Panthers wish to redeem themselves from their last face-off, they must focus on shutting down the Flames’ perimeter attack.

When they last met, FIU shot 34.6% from beyond the arc, which is above their season average. However, their above-par performance was mitigated by allowing their opponent to shoot 48.5% from 3-point distance.

On top of their high percentage, they also made and attempted a large volume of long distance attempts. Connecting on eight 3-pointers in each half, they shot 16-33 over the entire game and nearly doubled the Panthers’ number of makes.

Limiting their opponent’s 3-point shooting opportunities should be FIU’s top priority in this matchup. By denying the ball to open shooters and properly contesting shots, they have the opportunity to inflict some payback upon Liberty.

Returning home from a two game road trip, the FIU men’s basketball team is hosting the Liberty Flames on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Miami, Florida.

Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at Ocean Bank Convocation Center and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

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