The glass backboards at Lime Court were painted with Mean Green palm prints after North Texas handled FIU 70-56 in the Panthers’ final home game of the season on Saturday night at FIU Arena.
The Mean Green (13-13, 7-6 Conference USA) outrebounded the Panthers 19-11 on the offensive glass and had a 17-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I think we came out a little flat, and we never matched their energy,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “Honestly, they were a little more athletic than we were, and we weren’t doing the little things like boxing out and gang rebounding. So the athleticism took over.”
Adrian Diaz dunked off Dennis Mavin’s alley-oop feed, and it appeared the Panthers had woken up to start the second half. But the North Texas frontcourt put them back to rest. The Mean Green used a 10-0 run with two minutes remaining to bury the Panthers (13-14, 6-8). The road team pushed its lead to 17 points in the final frame.
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“They were just more athletic, and we weren’t trying to box them out,” said Diaz, who moved to fourth all-time in blocked shots at FIU. “We were trying to have a jumping match with them. You can’t have jumping matches with certain teams. This is one of those teams.”
“It was definitely an effort thing,” Diaz added. “Even though they aren’t glamorous stats, rebounding is a key to winning the game.”
Diaz kept the Panthers alive in the first half with four blocks and finished with six. Mavin had a game-high 19 points, while Diaz scored 13 points and Dominique Williams tallied 12 points in the loss. T.J. Taylor led the Mean Green with 18 points.
Both teams shot less than 40 percent in the first half, but the Mean Green came alive and shot nearly 48 percent in the second half. The Mean Green held the Panthers scoreless for the final 3:13 of the first half to lead 29-25 at halftime.
“In the second half, whether it was fatigue or what, the focus wasn’t there,” said Evans, whose team visits Marshall on Thursday night. “They took advantage of it. They were a little more athletic and a little bouncier than we were. That helped them extend the lead.”
“I think everyone can give a little bit more effort. (Diaz) is a good shot blocker and he’s going to get those. But the total team effort has to be up for us to be successful.”