Men’s basketball preview: FAU hosts rival FIU, looking to avenge a loss from earlier this calendar year

The Owls have not beaten the Panthers since 2013


Freshman guard Nick Rutherford (10) tries to dribble past multiple UTSA defenders during FAU’s 79-73 win on Feb. 11. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

With only three games remaining in the regular season, Florida Atlantic men’s basketball is running out of time to clinch a first round bye in the conference tournament that is beginning in three weeks’ time.

All 14 teams in Conference USA are set to compete in the tournament, however, with Southern Mississippi imposing a postseason ban on themselves, the top 11 teams will get a first-round bye while the 12th and 13th seeds will compete for the chance to advance.

FAU (7-21, 5-10 Conference USA), currently sitting 12th in the standings, will play host to rival Florida International (12-16, 6-9 Conference USA), which has lost seven of its last eight games.

Here’s what you need to know about the Golden Panthers and their rivalry with the Owls.

FAU is currently 15-22 all-time versus FIU, losing six of the last seven matchups against the Golden Panthers. The last time these two teams met was in Miami, with FIU picking up a 76-59 win over the Owls on Jan. 3 of this year.

The last time the Owls defeated FIU was March 2, 2013 in a 77-60 victory which saw then-Owls guard Stefan Moody pour in a game-high 28 points.

Playing FIU seems to bring out the best in Marquan Botley, with the junior guard averaging 16 points per game in five career games versus the Golden Panthers, including a career-high 27 points back in 2014.

FIU — currently sitting 10th in the conference standings — has relied on its defense to stay afloat this season. The team ranks fifth Conference USA in scoring defense and allows only 70 points per game.

The Golden Panthers also clog up the three-point line, ranking fourth in Conference USA in three-point field goal percentage and limiting opponents to 32 percent beyond the arc.

However, FIU’s defense begins down low. The team ranks second in the conference in blocked shots — swatting away 4.8 shots per game. Senior center Adrian Diaz is one of the best shot blockers in the country, ranking sixth in the nation at 3.04 blocks per game.

While the Golden Panthers are one of the best defensive teams overall in the conference, their offense has not matched up, scoring 71.8 points per game — 11th in the conference. However, they rank second in Conference USA in field goal shooting and fourth in three-point field goal percentage, at 47 percent and 37 percent respectively.

FIU has three players averaging double-digit scoring.

Junior guard Donte McGill and senior forward Daviyon Draper both average 15.9 points per game. Third-leading scorer Diaz — who also leads FIU in rebounding at 7.8 rebounds — averages 15.6 points per game.

Diaz also leads the Golden Panthers in field goal percentage at 66 percent, and although he hasn’t taken many 3-pointers, McGill leads the team at 44 percent from beyond the arc.

Junior forward Elmo Stephen has taken the most 3-pointers this season, making 34-of-92 from long range and averaging 4.8 attempts per game.


This will probably be one of the toughest games for the Owls offensively as they currently average 66.8 points per game, ranking second to last in Conference USA.

FAU has shot just 41 percent from the field — also ranking second to last in the conference — and makes 34 percent of its shots from the three-point line.

Junior guard Adonis Filer has been FAU‘s leading scorer all season, averaging 10.4 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the field.

Offensively, versus the Golden Panthers, the Owls will need to shoot more 3-pointers than usual, despite FIU’s strong defensive three-point percentages. FAU will rely heavily on senior guard Jackson Trapp and Botley — who has yet to defeat FIU in his career — to knock down shots early, as they both shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc.

Sophomore center Ronald Delph will also be a huge factor in this game — both offensively and defensively.

He’ll need to post up and get some inside buckets to open space for the shooters. Delph will also have the assignment of guarding Diaz to limit his offense and throw him off his game early.

The Owls give up 74.8 points per game in the conference, good for eighth best, and allow teams to shoot 46 percent from the field, which is ranked 11th in Conference USA.

The Golden Panthers’ great 3-point shooting might also be a problem for the Owls, as FAU opponents have made 33 percent of their 3-point shots.

It will be an intense and chippy game as both teams renew their rivalry for the second time this season. However, to win this game, the Owls will have to knock down shots from the outside to open the inside game, neither of which will come easy.

FIU faces off against the Owls on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. in FAU arena.

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.