A season of highs and lows: men’s basketball’s 2023-2024 campaign

Junior guard Petar Krivokapic taking a 3-point jump shot. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Andres Rodriguez | Contributing Writer

The FIU men’s basketball team’s season came to a conclusion in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Championships, where they took a 78-59 loss to the Sam Houston Bearkats on March 13, 2024 in Huntsville, Alabama.

After getting eliminated in the conference playoffs, the Panthers finished their season with a 11-22 overall record and a 5-11 record against CUSA opponents. Due to their inconsistent play throughout the entire season, they came in last place in the conference standings.

Struggles throughout the season:

To begin their season, FIU demonstrated vulnerability on both ends of the court and lost their first three games.  During that stretch of games, they were outscored by a margin of 46 points and struggled to find an offensive leader.

In an attempt to turn their season around, they took a 83-74 away win against the Houston iiChristian Huskies on Nov. 15, 2023. As a team, the Panthers displayed their accuracy from long range, as they shot 38.7% from 3-point distance. 

Able to claim their first win of the year, this game marked FIU’s only win on the road for the remainder of the season. Following this matchup, they lost 10 away games in a row and finished with a 1-12 record in enemy territory. 

Despite their victory, the Panthers were unable to build momentum to move forward, as they went on a three game losing streak. Through that stretch of games, they unveiled a recurring pattern of errors that plagued them for the rest of the season.

Over the team’s next seven games, they went 2-5 and cemented themselves into last place of the Conference USA standings. Their defensive blunders allowed them to concede an average of 74.7 points per game in that stretch, with their opponents scoring 80+ points in three games. 

Following a 5-10 start over their first 15 games, FIU struggled to find their footing once conference play began. Despite winning two out of their first three games, their loss to Middle Tennessee on Feb. 10 marked the beginning of a four game losing streak.

Upon the season’s conclusion, the Panthers wrapped up conference play with a 5-11 record and earned the ninth seed in the CUSA Championships. In their first round matchup against the eighth seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks on March 12, they took a 76-67 win.

With their season on the line, this game saw FIU claw their way out of an 11 point deficit from the first half. Their 3-point accuracy allowed them to rally from behind and claim a victory, as they shot 11-22 from long distance in the game.

Able to secure a 76-67 comeback win over the higher seeded opponent, the Panthers kept their season alive. For the quarterfinal round of the tournament on March 13, they were matched up with the top seeded Sam Houston Bearkats 

Despite accomplishing a first round upset, FIU’s season came to a grinding halt against the Bearkats, as they took a 78-59 loss. Throughout the entire game, they struggled on both ends of the floor and never held a lead beyond their first possession.

Key contributors:

In his second season, sophomore guard Arturo Dean led the team in scoring and averaged a career best 13.4 points per game. Displaying improvement from his freshman campaign, he also averaged career highs in rebounds (5.1) and assists (four) per game.

Beyond shouldering the majority of the team’s offensive load, he averaged 3.4 steals per game this season and led the NCAA steals per game. Due to his two-way prowess, he was awarded with All Defensive First Team and All CUSA Third Team honors.

Once the season came to a close, Dean entered the NCAA transfer portal and will be taking his talents elsewhere for the 2024-2025 season. He leaves the Panthers looking for a new primary ball handler and scoring option for next season with his departure.

Finishing his third season with the team, senior guard Javaunte Hawkins’ scoring averaged dramatically increased from the previous season. In 2022-2023, he averaged 5.8 PPG whereas in 2023-2024, he averaged 13.3 PPG. 

Outside of his growth as a scorer, Hawkins shot the ball at the highest percentages of his career. This season, he shot 39.8% from the field and 38% from 3-point distance.

After coming off the bench for half of the season, junior guard Petar Krivokapic averaged 7.2 PPG and served as the team’s primary 3-point shooter. He finished the season with a team high 40.5% average from 3-point distance and knocked down 51 of his 126 total attempts.

Moving into the offseason, FIU looks to establish a new identity with multiple key contributors leaving the roster. 

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