From Texas straight to Wisconsin, the season continues.
Brian Beard and Devon Andrews scored 29 points each late Saturday night as the FIU men’s basketball team beat Texas State 87-81 in a first-round game of the CollegeInsider.com tournament (CIT).
Shortly after the game, the Panthers — rather than return home — flew north and will visit the Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix (18-16) in a second-round game on Tuesday.
To be fair, the CIT is a third-ranked tournament at best, rating behind the combined 100 teams selected for the NCAA and the NIT. Still, Saturday’s victory was the first postseason win in FIU men’s basketball history.
Further, the Panthers (20-13) reached the 20-win milestone, which is impressive for first-year FIU coach Jeremy Ballard, who didn’t inherit much in terms of program tradition. The school record for wins is 21, set in 1997-98.
“I’m grateful for our players,” Ballard said on an FIU website video. “They are building a legacy. I couldn’t be prouder.
“The second-most wins in school history — we’re fired up. To be down nine points with 10 minutes to play and come back against a team with 24 wins shows our heart.”
In the win over Texas State (24-10), Beard had a game-high five steals, and Osasumwen Osaghae had game highs with 12 rebounds and six blocks.
“Coach [Ballard] has been preaching 20 wins,” Osaghae said. “We want to change the culture of the program.”
Meanwhile, the Phoenix defeated East Tennessee State 102-94 on Wednesday, which means Wisconsin-Green Bay will be significantly more rested than FIU in addition to having home-court advantage.
Sandy Cohen III, a 6-6 senior wing, led the Phoenix with 29 points and six assists. The Phoenix scored 59 first-half points, shooting an impressive 72 percent. They cooled off in the second half but still shot 58 percent for the game.
No freshmen have played for the Phoenix this season, who stumbled to a 13-20 record last season and brought in experienced players. In fact, there are four junior college transfers on this squad, combining for 79 starts, including two of their top three scorers.
FIU, though, has now shown it can go on the road and win a postseason game.
“There’s nothing better than winning in March,” Ballard said. “I’m glad our guys got to experience that.”
There are 16 teams left in the CIT, and Beard has confidence in his team’s resilience.
“We don’t want to go home,” Beard said. “We don’t want to end our season with a loss.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ On Saturday in Austin, FIU freshman diver Maha Gouda became the youngest Panther in program history to earn All-America honors, finishing eighth in the platform.
Gouda, who competed for Egypt in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, joins Rebecca Quesnel, who finished third in 2017, as the only All-American divers in FIU history.
▪ FIU’s baseball team (11-12) hasn’t gotten hot for an extended period this season, but the same cannot be said for Panthers sophomore lefty Logan Allen, who has pitched 31 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
In six starts this season, Allen is 3-1 with an incredible 0.74 ERA. He has struck out 61 batters in 36 2/3 innings. Batters are hitting .146 against him.
Allen beat Western Kentucky 2-1 on Friday, striking out 11 while allowing just five hits and one unearned run in 8 2/3 innings. Western Kentucky won the next two games of the series, including 15-1 on Sunday.