The FIU men’s basketball team completed a Texas two-step stumble homestand on Saturday, losing 67-64 to Texas-El Paso at FIU Arena.
Unlike in Thursday’s loss to Texas-San Antonio, when FIU collapsed after being up 10 in the second half, the Panthers (11-12, 4-6 Conference USA) spent Saturday’s first half scrapping just to stay in the game. The second half saw them erase, at a rock climber’s pace, an 11-point UTEP lead and eventually take their first lead of the game at 63-62 on Dennis Mavin’s layup with 1:23 left.
Stellar defense forced an off-balance three-pointer by C.J. Cooper late in the slot clock that had no chance, but Omega Harris got the putback to push the Miners (16-7, 8-3) back up, 64-63.
Mavin, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, lost the ball as he started to drive on the next possession, and Julian Washburn scooped up the goodies. After Washburn got fouled on the fast break, he missed the second of two free throws. Cedrick Lang rebounded and was fouled. Lang also made one of two.
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“These are plays that have to be made for us to be consistently successful,” said FIU coach Anthony Evans of the two offensive rebounds allowed in that sequence.
FIU called timeout with 2.4 seconds left. Mavin said the planned play called for him to sucker UTEP’s defense toward him and leave Kris Gulley open for a tying three-pointer. Instead, Mavin wound up with the ball and a leaning three-point try from well behind the arc with defenders in his face.
Instead of center Adrian Diaz, whose four blocks gave him a school-record 62 for the season, being FIU’s main non-Mavin scorer, Daviyon Draper took the role. He scored 21 points before fouling out with three minutes left.