The Panthers have nearly become a recurring series of Fox Sports 1.
Saturday’s game against Georgetown will be the third FIU game on the network in a row, Fox’s attempt at an ESPN-style network. That’s already more regular-season national TV exposure than last season and one game short of 2011-12. It’s a good season for it, as FIU is 8-5 with wins over redoubtable Texas Southern and Florida Gulf Coast.
Before last Saturday’s loss to No. 6 Louisville, FIU coach Anthony Evans was asked how the team’s current state compared to what he anticipated before practices began.
“I think we’re on pace. Clearly, we didn’t know how the Ray Taylor situation was going to affect us,” Evans said. “I think the team has done an admirable job of holding things together and playing well in his absence.”
FIU is proceeding as if it will be permanently without fifth-year senior point guard Taylor. The FAU transfer played the first seven games before a question about his eligibility prompted his exile from the team.
Without Taylor to break down defenses off the dribble, FIU has had to work on better ball movement and offensive patience. Louisville exposed FIU’s impatience, as top teams with pressure defenses will do. FIU had only six assists in that game and averages only 11.3 per game. On the other hand, the Panthers average 14.8 turnovers per game. Taylor’s assist-to-turnover ratio was 37 to 13.
After the Louisville loss, Evans said the team would work on the turnovers, and “growth is what I’m looking for.”
Growth is what he has seen in FIU’s other transfer from FAU, redshirt junior Dennis Mavin. Mavin leads FIU in steals with 21 while averaging 9.8 points per game playing shooting guard.
“I talked to Coach before the season,” Mavin said. “He told me he’s going to need me to be big on the defensive end. It so happened that my offense started to click along with my defense.”
Mavin said sitting out last season “was long and challenging, me playing my whole life and never sitting out. I kind of observed the game from a student. It paid off to take a step back and learn the game instead of just playing the game 100 mph.”
• FIU’s annual women’s basketball holiday tournament, The Sun & Fun Classic, begins Saturday at U.S. Century Bank Arena. FIU plays Fairleigh-Dickinson at 6 p.m., with the winner playing the winner of Wake Forest vs. Florida A&M on Sunday. After the tournament, FIU has only a game at Palm Beach Atlantic before starting its first Conference USA schedule.