FIU scorched the same first home opponent as it did a year ago, Florida College, not from the SEC but from the United States College Athletic Association.
But a very different Panthers team did the scorching in a 64-42 win on replacement Lime Court at FIU Arena.
Four transfers — 6-11 redshirt junior center Adrian Diaz, 6-7 senior Kris Gulley, 6-7 junior forward Daviyon Draper and 5-10 point guard Tashawn Desir — joined senior guard Dennis Mavin. Mavin ended with a game-high 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and came down with a team-high 10 rebounds. In just 19 minutes, Diaz scored 11 points, got five rebounds and blocked five shots.
“During our scrimmages, playing together, seeing what teams or what units worked well, it seemed like the starting five gelled,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “Each of them does something different.
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“Kris Gulley is a shooter. Daviyon is more of a penetrator, really good passer in the high post. Adrian gives us a post presence. Dennis can slash, he’s a scorer for us. Tashawn, I thought did a great job facilitating for us [Friday night]with seven assists.”
“That was the best five I thought played together. I know we had guys from last year, but I thought they played well together.”
It took one possession for Diaz, a Hialeah-Miami Lakes High graduate, to establish that post presence. He came down with the first rebound, an offensive rebound, of the season. Seconds later, off Desir’s penetration, he got FIU’s first points of the season on the first dunk of the season.
Two minutes after that, he slapped Jan Zornjan’s shot back down, block No.1 of the season.
“I was just trying to do what coach told me to do,” Diaz said. “He told me to relax. It’s the first game back home, so get the jitters out of the way quickly. That’s what I did.”
He analyzed his performance with, “I could’ve done better job on the boards. I could’ve done better defensively as well.”
A Mavin layup followed by a Diaz block started the 20-0 first-half run that ended the competitive phase of the game before the break.
Mavin fed Diaz, then drained a jumper of his own. Diaz dunked off a Mavin feed. Dominque Williams (11 points, eight rebounds) dropped in a jumper. Ray Rodriguez hit from three-point range for a 20-4 lead.
Diaz got a putback. Desir dropped in two free throws, a rare event on a night when FIU went five for 15 from the line. A three-pointer by Gulley bloated FIU’s lead to 27-4 with 6:13 left in the first half.
Florida College shot only 4 of 23 (17.4 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes.
“Our first goal was to play hard on defense,” Mavin said. “I was just trying to get the guys to focus on defense and everything else would take care of itself.”
Ten players dressed for FIU and 10 played. Each played at least 10 minutes.
“I thought it was a good start for us,” Evans said. “Obviously, in the beginning, there was a lot of energy. The team played well defensively. I thought we rebounded and got some easy baskets. Toward the end, it got a little sloppy. I thought we were playing the score rather than playing the game. That’s something we’ve got to work on. But it’s a new team with a lot of new faces. It’s going to be a process.”