It was a good night Saturday for the FIU basketball teams just not an easy one.
The Panthers men and women won their games against Troy in a double-header at U.S. Century BankArena, but not with the ease they might have expected.
The FIU men, with a furious rally at the end, won by 61-55 and the FIU women, led by usual suspects Jerica Coley and Marita Davydova, turned back Troy by 82-76.
Coach Richard Pitinos men had to outscore Troy 24-10 in the final minutes to pull off their hectic victory.
In my very young career, thats the most proud I have been of a team, said Pitino, who is in his first year at FIU.
They showed a lot of heart. Everything was going against us and they wouldnt give up.
The FIU men (10-8, 5-4 Sun Belt Conference) were led by Malik Smith, who finished with 22 points, including two key three-pointers with less than five minutes remaining that demoralized Troy (7-12, 2-6).
I believe in the three-point line, Pitino said, and Malik is one of the best three shooters in the country. I told him to keep shooting if he was open.
Smith finished 5 of 11 on threes. Also in double figures for the FIU men were Tymell Murphy with 15 and Cameron Bell with 12.
Much of the game was a battle of three-point shooting, with FIU finishing seven of 23 on threes while Troy went 6 of 21.
In the first game, the FIU women put themselves on the winning side of their Sun Belt record, going to 5-4 and 11-7 overall. The FIU women moved to a 43-33 advantage over Troy (3-14, 0-8) early in the second half but could not pull away.
With 18 seconds to play, FIUs margin had been cut to a precarious 78-76. However, Coley was fouled and made both free throws to make the score 80-76, and she added two more free throws in the last seconds for the final difference.
Was Coley nervous at the free-throw line late? No, she said. I didnt feel too much pressure. I was glad to be shooting them.
Coley, the nations third-leading scorer, made her final seven free-throw attempts and finished with 33 points. Davydova chipped in with 18 points.
It was a hard-fought game, FIU Coach Cindy Russo said. Troy has been playing all their conference games close like this.