On Thursday, the FIU men’s basketball team entered a second consecutive home game buoyant after a strong performance. And to what did the Panthers treat the spirited, mouthy crowd of 1,000 at FIU Arena?
That’s right, a second consecutive flapjack flat home performance and loss to a sub-.500 team. This time, the Panthers failed against Charlotte, 72-69.
FIU is 11-10 overall, 5-3 in Conference USA, with the past two losses coming against Charlotte (7-13, 4-4) and Southern Mississippi (6-12, 3-4).
And FIU coach Anthony Evans, a consistent man, sounded exactly as he did Jan. 16 after the Panthers tripped over Southern Miss.
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“It’s a learning process, I guess. I’ll take it as that,” Evans said. “We’ve got to learn to play with the same energy we had on the road, the same focus. I don’t think we played with good energy tonight. I thought we came out flat. We continued to play flat. Even when the game was getting close, I don’t think the energy picked up like it should.”
Charlotte outrebounded FIU 37-33.
Before fouling out, FIU center Adrian Diaz blocked eight shots and had 17 points, precisely the number of second-chance points Charlotte scored. The 49ers’ 6-10 center and C-USA’s leading rebounder in league games, Joseph Uchebo, grabbed 10 rebounds, went 7 of 12 from the field and even 5 of 7 from the free-throw line (71.4 percent, a numeric anagram of his average, 47.1 percent).
“He’s a very talented player,” Diaz said. “I tried to put in my work early, but … he’s a very talented player.”
Other than Diaz, FIU’s only consistent offense came from senior forward Daviyon Draper. Draper dropped in 24 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and was even 2 of 3 from three-point range (all other Panthers were 3 of 11). But Draper committed two turnovers on possessions FIU needed while down four with 1:43 and 24 seconds left.
Donte McGill got into double figures with 13 points but did it rather inefficiently, going 4 of 12 from the field. Draper’s four assists led FIU.