FIU 75, Stetson 66

FIU Panthers men's basketball team wins fifth in row

 

Raymond Taylor had 18 points and seven assists to lead the Panthers over the Hatters on Monday night for their fifth consecutive win.

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

Monday night’s FIU 75-66 win over Stetson at U.S. Century Bank Arena ended with the ball in 5-6 FIU point guard Raymond Taylor’s hands. Appropriate, that.

With senior forward Tymell Murphy hobbled and Rakeem Buckles ineffective when he wasn’t planted on the bench, Taylor took over the FIU offense with game-highs of 18 points and seven assists. Most of the latter came off darting penetration followed by feeds to Dennis Mavin (13 points) and sophomore forward Jerome Frink (17 points).

“I knew I had to be a little more aggressive offensively,” Taylor said. “Those are our Nos. 1 and 2 scoring options. With them not being in, everybody’s looking around like “who’s going to score now.” I figure if I can get a couple of easy baskets, then the defense can help and I can get shooters open.”

Taylor broke the game’s last tie, 42-42, with a three-pointer. After a bucket by Stetson senior forward Willie Green and two free throws by Marco Porcher Jimenez left FIU (5-2) ahead 47-44, Green lost the ball on the dribble and Buckles grabbed it. He fired an outlet to Taylor who put in a short jumper went off the glass in transition for a 49-44 lead.

Four minutes later, with 5:51 left, Taylor set up on the right side of the court and waved Mavin away to give him room to work. Mavin floated behind the arc on the left as Taylor zipped into the lane, then found Mavin for the three-pointer that put FIU ahead 57-46. A Frink dunk from Taylor made it 61-49 with 4:36 left.

That turned out to be too big a hump for Stetson (0-4) to prevent FIU’s fifth straight win.

“Ray’s been big for us the whole year,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “When he’s playing under control, he’s great for us. The times that he doesn’t, we have to take him out and remind him of his role on the team.”

FIU’s eighth consecutive home win, the longest streak since 18 in a row from Feb. 15, 1997 to Nov. 20, 1998, came with limited offensive help from Buckles. FIU’s leading scorer played only four minutes in the first half and put in only six points for the game.

“I just think he’s got to be more aggressive defensively,” Evans said. “He’s got to play his man before he gets the ball rather than allowing him to catch it easily. He’s one of our better players and we need him on the floor. He’s got to be smarter, especially that second foul almost near half court.”

Seeing Buckles down about his overall game, Taylor let Buckles know he’d tied the school record for individual blocked shots in a game with eight, set by 1989 against Maryland-Eastern Shore. The team’s 10 blocked shots also tied a school record, also set in that 1989 game and tied against Ohio in 2004.

“I wasn’t scoring or rebounding as much as I wanted to,” Buckles said. He chuckled, “I wasn’t on the floor as I wanted to, but I just tried to impact the game and take us on with the win.”

Murphy, who suffered an unspecified injury, will sit out Tuesday’s practice as FIU prepares for Wednesday’s game at Bethune-Cookman.

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