Sometimes, the difference between one level of achievement and another is the willingness of the team or player reaching the higher level to work on weaknesses.
Before Wednesday night’s 80-72 win against Long Island University-Brooklyn and former Panther Jerome Frink, FIU shot 58.3 percent from the free-throw line over the first five games. After blowing all but three points of a 24-point halftime lead, the Panthers sealed the win Wednesday at the line and finished a 28 of 37 (75.7 percent) performance.
“We’ve been working on it since we came back from the trip,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “We saw it was a weakness and needed to improve.”
Offense, so often an FIU concern last season unless you were talking about Dennis Mavin or Adrian Diaz, also concerned Evans. So...
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“We spent the whole preseason working on offense. I thought that was something we needed to improve going into this year,” he said. “We're always going to be a good defensive team because I'm a defensive-minded coach. We worked on shooting. We worked on skill development. We worked on timing of our offense, things of that nature, in the preseason also in the summer so we can be better once the season started.”
On Wednesday, the Panthers finished with three players in double figures: junior guard Donte McGill (24 points), senior forward Daviyon Draper (16) and junior guard Eric Nottage (15 points on perfect shooting — 4 of 4 from the field, including 3 for 3 from three-point range and 4 of 4 from the line).
The Panthers built their halftime bulge with Diaz playing only five first half minutes.
In the second half, they found themselves scratching out a win. The difference went back to Evans’ roots.
“We defended,” he said. “We held them to 29 percent from the field. They hit four free throws. In the second half, they scored 50 points.”