That an FIU basketball team ran Arkansas State out of U.S. Century Bank Arena on Thursday night with inside-out defense and unselfish offense should surprise nobody.
But who expected that team to be the FIU men?
The numbers at both ends added up to the Panthers 80-61 win, a game that FIU turned into a blowout early in the second half after leading 33-26 at halftime.
Arkansas State (4-2, 0-1) came in averaging 76 points and shooting 44.2 percent from the field. FIU (2-2, 1-0) held them to 61 and 36.5, respectively. FIU held guard Ed Townsel 4.8 points below his 17.8 per game average and Townsel had to shoot five of 15 just to get that. The Red Wolves also staged a comedy, A Night at the Free Throw Line, an atrocious seven for 17 display.
Meanwhile, FIU shot 60.4 percent for the game, a scorching 66.7 in the second half and 53.3 percent from three-point range. The 22 points on nine of 10 shooting by junior forward Tymell Murphy led the way, but 10 different Panthers scored and three others — junior guard Malik Smith, freshman forward Jerome Frink and sophomore guard Juan Ferrales — got into double figures.
“I thought we had patience today,” Murphy said. “We didn’t rush anything. We didn’t take crazy shots today.”
Frink and Murphy each had a team-high seven rebounds as FIU held its own on the boards, 35-33. And Frink spent much of his 28 minutes bumping bodies with thick 274-pound Arkansas State junior Kendrick Washington.
“That was the performance we were waiting for,” FIU coach Richard Pitino said. “Our defense has been very shaky and our rebounding has been very shaky. To hold them to 36 percent and to outrebound a very good team is something we’re very proud of.”
FIU women fall
Six days after upsetting Iowa and four days after playing LSU tough, FIU’s women’s basketball team managed to lose to previously winless Arkansas State 60-57 at home Thursday night.
“Very disappointing,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said. “We didn’t execute. We weren’t disciplined enough. We were out there not running an offense.”
Though leading scorer Jerica Coley was 7 of 23 from the field and FIU (2-4, 0-2) had 20 turnovers for the game, they still remained even at 57 with two minutes left.
Arkansas State’s Jalen O’Bannon sank a free throw to put the Red Wolves in the lead. The teams traded turnovers and misses until Ashley Olvera dropped two free throws with 16.7 seconds left after an intentional foul by Carmen Miloglav. A final three-point shot by Coley clanked away just before the horn.
The upset got authored at the free throw line and behind the three-point line. Not that Arkansas State (1-5, 1-0 in the Sun Belt) defined unconscious in any way from three-point range, two for seven, but that’s laser-guided shooting compared to FIU’s zero for nine. The Red Wolves sank 24 of 28 free throws. FIU took only eight free throws. Coley didn’t shoot one.
“We fade away, shoot jump shots all the time,” Russo said. “We don’t penetrate, except for Jerica. She could’ve gotten a couple more fouls. We don’t make it happen. Our big girls shoot turnaround jump shots.”