You don’t often see 26 turnovers in Miami without a molecule of guava or cheese nearby. But then you don’t often see a basketball game like FIU’s 74-63 loss to Texas-San Antonio on Thursday night at FIU Arena.
FIU led 43-33 when the cascade of turnovers crashed onto the Panthers in a 15-0 UTSA run that permanently swung the game.
“Turnovers,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said in explanation. “Turnovers, missed assignments defensively. We had 26 turnovers. That’s not good basketball, that’s not how you win games. We had a lot of missed assignments defensively, they had a lot of open shots. They played well at the end.”
Redshirt junior center Adrian Diaz set an FIU record with eight blocks, four in the first half and four in the second half, and had game highs with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Once again, Diaz and Dennis Mavin, 15 points, were FIU’s double-figure scorers.
Jeromie Hill’s three-pointers (and FIU’s turnovers) kept UTSA (11-10, 5-5 Conference USA) in the game in the first half. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Roadrunners’ Keon Lewis got hot in the second half, dropping in 19 of his 23 points. Two Lewis three-pointers closed the 15-0 run. After a Diaz layup, another Lewis three-pointer put UTSA up 51-45.
FIU (11-11, 4-5) hosts Texas-El Paso on Saturday, the end of a five-game, 10-night stretch for the Panthers.
Diaz discounted fatigue as a possible factor.
“Practice was very light [Wednesday],” he said. “That helped a lot with our legs.”
The Panthers’ athleticism advantage, especially 6-10 Adrian Diaz over 7-0 Kaj-Bjorn Sherman inside, allowed FIU to snuff the Roadrunners on the defensive end in the first half: eight of 32 (25 percent) from the field. On the perimeter, the Panthers looked as disruptive as they were in Tuesday’s rout of Florida Atlantic.
The lone mole on the face of a 35-26 halftime lead were the 12 first-half turnovers. But the mole never got removed in the second half before it grew into a cancerous element.
“When you’re too loose with the basketball … I thought our pressure was great in the beginning,” Evans said. “We were getting turnovers and if we turned it over, we were getting it back. In the second half, we weren’t getting those turnovers and we were turning it over.”
In the second half, the first time UTSA tried to press FIU, Kris Gulley and Ray Rodriguez played cross-court catch up the floor until Gulley zipped a pass to Diaz for a dunk and 39-32 lead. But after that, the press seemed to bother the Panthers, who were victimized by pressure and trapping by Western Kentucky in their last home loss.
“They were putting some pressure on us and we didn’t handle it great,” Evans said. “It was the unforced turnovers that hurt us because they led to baskets.’’