In a game that featured a personal milestone, the extension of a winning streak became priority.
Devon Andrews scored a game-high 21 points to lead FIU to an 83-76 home victory over Louisiana Tech Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers, who swept the two regular season games from the Bulldogs following a 75-69 road win on Feb. 2, have now won four straight. With the victory, the Panthers improved to 18-11 and 9-7 in Conference USA. The 18 wins match the fourth-best season in program history.
“Huge, win,” FIU coach Jeremy Ballard said. “I told our guys this is a quality, quality team that we were able to sweep. They’ve won some big games this year. They’re well coached. They’re very solid on both sides of the ball. It took a lot of toughness and a lot of grit to win this game.”
Senior guard Brian Beard became the seventh FIU player to reach 1,000 career points after his driving bank shot with 5:43 remaining in the first half. Beard, who entered the game with 999 points, spent the first 14 minutes distributing to teammates and didn’t take a shot until his milestone points.
“Coming into the game I knew I needed one point,” Beard said. “I wasn’t pressed to get it. I knew I was going to score one point but it felt good to get it. I’m proud of myself.”
Beard scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half and finished with seven assists.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Beard said. “They were collapsing on me and I was just trying to find the open guy.”
The Panthers took the lead for good after they erased a seven-point deficit with a 16-4 run late in the second half. Beard’s 3-pointer with 6:47 remaining capped the surge and gave FIU a 71-66 advantage.
Before the Panthers’ run, the Bulldogs (18-12, 8-9 C-USA) enjoyed their largest lead 62-55 after Amorie Archibald’s 3-pointer with 10:51 remaining. Archibald finished with 20 points and shot 6-of-8 from behind the arc.
“We’ve talked all year long, ever since we began working with each other in the summer about our ability to respond,” Ballard said. “It’s the most important thing that you can do out there on a basketball court. Basketball is a game of runs and today was no different. We had our runs, they had theirs.”
Andrews clinched the victory, converting five free throws in the final 2:44. Andrews shot 12- of-15 from the line. Panthers forward Osasumwen Osaghae finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds and also blocked five shots. Isaiah Banks scored 12 points and shot 5-of-7 from the field.
“Nobody is being selfish,” Andrews said of the Panthers’ current streak. “Everybody is moving the ball and not caring about scoring. And when we play like that we go on runs.”
The Panthers play their third game of C-USA’s end-of-the-regular season bonus format Wednesday at Marshall and conclude their home schedule against North Texas Saturday. The four-game bonus schedule will determine seeding for the conference tournament March 13-16.