Men’s basketball: strong defense, bench key in FAU’s win over FIU

The Owls held the Golden Panthers to just 40 percent shooting from the field.


Sophomore Justin Massey scored 12 points in the Owls win over FIU on Saturday. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor

Using strong defense and feeding off the energy from its bench, Florida Atlantic men’s basketball defeated Florida International University 73-64 Saturday afternoon in Boca Raton.

After seeing what was once a 14-point second half lead cut down to four with a little under four minutes remaining, the Owls (5-9, 1-2 Conference USA) held the Panthers (4-12, 0-3 Conference USA) to just four points throughout the rest of the game.

“We just needed to take care of the basketball, take care of some mistakes we made and knock down some free throws,” said head coach Michael Curry when asked what it was going to take to hang on to win the game.

FAU held the Panthers to just 40 percent shooting for the game — 2-for-11 from deep — and forced 16 turnovers.

The Owls bench scored or assisted on 37 points in the game. Sophomore Justin Massey scored 12 points off the bench, knocking down 4-of-6 shots, two of which were from three-point range.

The Owls had four players in double digits, with sophomore Nick Rutherford leading the way with 14 points and four assists.

Both teams got off to a fast start, exchanging buckets and the lead three times in the opening four minutes. After the score was tied at nine with 15:43 remaining, Curry decided to experiment.

The head coach put five bench players on the floor at once, and that proved to be the major turning point of the first half. The bench went on to outscore FIU 18-9 in the ensuing nine minutes as the Owls took control of the game.

Curry had Massey, juniors Gerdarius Troutman and William Pfister, senior Marcus Neely and freshman Devorious Brown on the floor.

“[It was just] the flow of the game,” said Curry on why he had five bench players on the floor at once. “If our starters can get a lead early on, we think we can get an even [bigger] advantage with our bench on the floor.”

The Owls held the Panthers to just 34.6 percent shooting in the half, holding them to one 3-pointer. FAU also forced seven FIU turnovers and took a 40-30 halftime lead.

FAU began the second half the same way it closed the first, knocking down its first three shots of the period and extending its lead to 14.

However, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run with 4:33 remaining in the game to cut the lead down to 64-58, holding the Owls scoreless for more than three minutes of game time.

FIU forward Michael Kessens led the Panthers with 21 points and shot 5-for-7 in the second half to lead the comeback effort.

FAU will travel to take on a pair of Texas-based teams, visiting the University of Texas at San Antonio first on Thursday, Jan. 12, at 8:00 p.m.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.