FIU knew South Alabama would come into U.S. Century Bank Arena on Saturday night launching a fusillade of three-pointers. The Panthers knew if they didn’t defend the three well, they’d be in a scoreboard race they couldn’t win.
In other words, they knew what happened Saturday could happen. FIU (2-3, 1-1 in the Sun Belt Conference) got bombed out 79-68 as the Jaguars hit 13 three-pointers and shot 54.2 percent from behind the arc.
“They definitely hit some tough shots early and that got us back on our heels a little bit,” FIU coach Richard Pitino said. “But we certainly did not guard the three-point line the way we needed to. Any time a team hits 13 threes in your building, you’re not going to win the game. It’s almost going to be impossible.”
Junior forward Tymell Murphy led FIU in scoring for the second consecutive game with 16 points, and added a game-high 10 rebounds, but earned Pitino’s ire during the game and criticism after it for his defense. Senior point guard Gaby Belardo put in 14 points and had four assists.
For South Alabama, Mychal Ammons fired in a game-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 5 of 7 from three-point range. Xavier Roberson didn’t take a two-point shot, going 3 of 6 from the field. And Antoine Allen had a perfect night — 3 for 3 from the field, all from three-point range, and 4 for 4 from the line.
After South Alabama strafed FAU on Thursday — especially in the first half — Jaguars coach Ronnie Arrow said, “When our three-point shooters are on, we’re going to beat a lot of teams by a lot of points.”
Tell FIU about it.
Shooting like that is hard enough to counter on an average night. When you hit only 16 of your first 42 from the field, including 3 of 13 from three-point range, it’s fatal.
Those were FIU’s numbers when it fell behind 57-41 with 13:32 left in the game. The Panthers earlier had hung around and were down only 38-33 with the ball for the last possession of the first half.
Or, what turned out to be the next-to-last possession after Deric Hill double dribbled. The Jaguars took over with less than six seconds left and almost all of it was gone when Freddie Goldstein’s 24-footer found net.
Though FIU scored first in the second half, Goldstein’s shot seemed to launch the rout. The Jaguars sped away on three-point fuel while FIU either took forced shots or failed to hit open ones.
“I think we had a big win at home [Thursday against Arkansas State]. I think the guys were excited and started to do it all themselves a little bit,” Pitino said. “Instead of letting the game come to them, they started trying to play one-on-one basketball. And that’s not what we’re about. We’ve got to space the floor, we’ve got to create, we’ve got to screen and we just didn’t do that.”
As an example, Pitino pointed out Malik Smith was 2 for 13 from the field, “and I’m saying 10 of those shots were bad shots.”
The win gave Arrow 112 Sun Belt Conference wins, breaking him out of a tie with Gene Bartow, who had 111 while at Alabama-Birmingham from 1979-91.