FIU MBB Heads to Dallas for CUSA Tournament

FIU LA Tech

Thankfully, the Panthers were able to finish their season on a high note as they took a much-needed win against Rice. Big performances from Denver Jones and Seth Pinkney helped FIU dominate late in the game to get the victory. With the win, FIU now is the 8th seed in Conference USA and will be playing the nine-seed LA Tech.

Past history

This season, FIU played very well against the Bulldogs. With a fairly convincing win at home and a very close game that ended up in a one-point loss for the Panthers, they fared well against the Bulldogs. FIU and LA Tech certainly match up well and you can even argue that the matchup goes FIU’s way just a little more with their dominant big men.

Leading the way for FIU in game one was Denver Jones who dropped 21 points, four assists, and two rebounds. Petar Krivokapic was hot from the three-point line as he went 2/3 and dropped 12 points. On the other end, Arturo Dean was a defensive threat for FIU as he racked up five steals.

FIU truly was the better team as they scored 38 points in the second half, outscoring LA Tech. Something to note is that the Panthers are comeback kings. Although the final result doesn’t speak for it most of the time, they usually perform better in the second half as they outscore most of their opponents.

Game two of the series was tightly contested and really could have gone both ways. In the case of being a comeback king, we didn’t see that. FIU dominated the first half as they put up 42 points and had a comfortable 14-point lead. In the second half, the Panthers struggled as they only put up 25 points against LA Tech’s 39 points. That sent the game to overtime where FIU lost by one point.

Although the Panthers lost, it shows how closely contested these games can be and how good these teams match up. These two games also prove to be a preview of what could be the best game of the first round.

What will it take to win?

I think this is something that needs to be separated into two categories. First, what will it take for the Panthers to beat LA Tech, and then, what will it take for them to be an underdog story and make a big run or even win the whole thing?

For FIU to take the first round on Wednesday, they need to feed the ball to the two guys who have been major threats to LA Tech, Denver Jones and Petar Krivokapic. In game two at LA Tech, Krivokapic scored 25 points going 7-9 from deep. Truly proving that he is a deep ball threat and will hurt you if you leave him open.

Denver on the other hand, had 19 points and truly can take over games when in need. We have seen it multiple times this season and if they are at a point late in the game where the Panthers need him, Denver will step up and dominate. The guy has ice in his veins.

For FIU to make a run, they need to play the type of basketball we saw them play against the top dogs like UAB, FAU, and at one point, Charlotte. They all made a huge contribution and played team basketball. Denver was getting the late-game points and putting his big men in a position to dominate the paint. Arturo Dean caused havoc on defense by getting those steals and setting the defensive tone. Finally, the other pieces of FIU basketball are all meshing together to play team basketball.

The game plan for Coach Ballard is also crucial not only for this game now but for his future at FIU. If he can take the round one win and play competitively against UNT in the second round, then you have to consider retaining him for one more season. He has been running full-court press these past couple of weeks and has seen it work on some occasions, so if he can do it in this game against LA Tech, then you feel a lot better about your chances Wednesday.

Prediction

FIU – 67

LA Tech – 66

MVP – Dashon Gittens

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