The FIU Panthers showed signs of discomfort in their first game since early March, but survived a late scare in their season opener, defeating Flagler College 85-81.
The Panthers nearly let an 11-point lead slip as they were held without a field goal in the final 6:50 of Wednesday night’s contest at Ocean Bank Convocation Center. FIU shot an abysmal 0-10 from the field and 7/11 (63.6%) from the free-throw line during the drought.
Flagler, an NCAA Division II program, never took the lead in the match, but it came down to the final minute as they cut the deficit to as little as three points with 0:24 seconds remaining.
“I think some level of rust and some level of first game jitters was to be expected,” FIU head coach Jeremy Ballard said. “Our young men are not robots and they train and work their tails off to prepare, but we haven’t played against someone else since last March.”
The Panthers lost its top three leading scorers — Devon Andrews, Osasumwen Osaghae and Trejon Jacob — due to graduation following the 2019-20 season, but have quickly found their go-to guy. Junior guard Antonio Daye, Jr. led all FIU players with a career-high 24 points on 7-13 shooting. Daye, Jr. was held to just six points in the first half, but scored 18 points in the second period.
Graduate senior Radshad Davis notched 15 points while adding seven rebounds and a game-high three steals. The UT Arlington transfer connected from the three-point line three times, two of which came in the second half. Redshirt junior Tevin Brewer was the third Panther to score in double digits, notching 10 points.
Here are a few things that stood out.
FIU was far from efficient, as aside from scoring just 85 points in 84 possessions, they shot 26-70 (37.1%), 11-41 (26.8%) from beyond the arc and 22-35 (62.9%) from the charity stripe. The Panthers also committed 18 turnovers.
Defensively, Flagler was 31-63 (49.2%) from the field and shot 7-24 (29.2%) from three. Jaizec Lottie and Marcus Henderson, both NCAA Division I transfers, led the Saints. Lottie, a senior transfer from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, posted a game-high 29 points while adding nine rebounds and five assists. Henderson, a sophomore transfer from the University of Evansville, garnered 16 points.
Flagler, which gave quality playing time to Chris Metzger and Lawrence Slim, both of which are 6-foot-7, outscored FIU in the paint 46-30.
“Basketball is a game of highs and lows, and we played through both highs and lows,” Ballard said.
The Saints hurt themselves down the stretch, as they shot 12-23 (52%) from the free-throw line.
Dimon Carrigan showcases potential.
Last season’s starting lineup versus Rice in the Conference USA Tournament consisted of a 6-foot-5 average height. FIU’s starting lineup versus Flagler had an average height of 6-foot-3, with 6-foot-9 senior forward Dimon Carrigan as the tallest player.
Carrigan is tasked with making up for the loss of Osaghae, who was last year’s second-leading scorer and the NCAA’s leader in blocked shots (3.8). Carrigan led all players in blocks on Wednesday with three, while also registering eight points on 3-for-6 shooting, six rebounds and two steals.
Carrigan’s presence will be needed all season, as he and 6-foot-10 junior forward Anthony Mason, who played five minutes versus Flagler, are the only active members of FIU’s roster that are over 6-foot-6.