Men's Hoops Preview: FAU @ Florida International
FAU (13-12, 9-5) @ FIU (7-21, 4-11)
When: Thursday, Feb. 18th - 8:00PM EST
Where: Miami, FL - US Century Bank Arena
Live Video: FIU Pay Per View
ESPN 760 Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: Here
FIU Team Site: Here
G Ray Taylor 14.4 ppg
G Alex Tucker 6.4 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.8 ppg
G Sanchez Hughley 10.0 ppg
F Brett Royster 9.7 ppg
G Steven Miró 2.9 ppg
F Marlon Bright 9.0 ppg
F Marvin Roberts 16.1 ppg
F J.C. Otero 8.8 ppg
F Cedric Essola 4.1 ppg
The Panthers lead the all-time series 14-10. Most recently, the Owls knocked off FIU 106-88 on January 30th at FAU Arena while redeeming a lopsided 80-53 loss in Miami to end the regular season last year. The Owls were 15-30 from long range and shot a season high 60.7% from the floor.
FAU at a Glance
After withstanding a late Cajun's rally to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 76-72 last Thursday night in Boca Raton, the Owls have received some much needed time to rest.
DeMonte Simpson (toe) could return to the line-up having sat out the contest.
"He'll be good to play. I don't know how much he'll play on Thursday. But he should be 100% by next week", said Mike Jarvis.
Sanchez Hughley (aggravated hamstring) and Ray Taylor (hairline nose fracture) are both good to go.
With four games remaining in the regular season, FAU is in quest of a first round bye in the Sun Belt Tournament. Head to head match-ups highlight the latter part of the games left, but Thursday's contest is still very important as the Owls will likely need to win three of four to remain competitive in the hunt.
"Every game is important right now. There's probably about six, seven, eight teams in this league right now that have a chance to finish in the top three", said Mike Jarvis.
"The most important thing thing is to get better, to play well, and hopefully on the way win some games too. How many, who knows? You gotta win three or four games in March, that's all that's going to count in the end", said Jarvis.
The team has undoubtedly exceeded expectations up until this point having been picked to finish fifth in the eastern division by league coaches prior to the season. And a strong finish would make a solid case towards Jarvis receiving the nod as Sun Belt Coach of the Year.
FIU at a Glance
Despite a game high 27 point performance by Marvin Roberts, Troy slipped away with a 81-78 win over the Panthers last Saturday. Roberts had a chance to tie it up with five seconds remaining but his shot rimmed out.
FIU has made strides as of late despite dropping the last five contests. Just a nine point differential has accounted for defeats in the last three outings: Troy -3, USA -4, and UNT -2.
The Panthers currently rank last in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (77.1 ppg), but are first in steals (8.2 pg).
Robert's 16.1 ppg is good for fourth place amongst all league scorers.
FIU closes the regular season with three straight games at home, but it won't be an easy stretch while hosting contenders Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky.
Owl's Nest Prediction
The Panthers have their "four-man" perimeter offense clicking well at the moment and they did put up quite a tussle at Troy. But it's a watered down version of what FAU faced against the Pioneers, and the Owls are all the better having gone through Denver against the real thing.
If the game were at FAU Arena right now, the line would likely be -9 in favor of the Owls. However, it's a rivalry game "on the road", so we'll give FIU 4 points with reservation:
Whether or not FIU will have a crowd on hand to produce an atmosphere worthy of home court advantage is up for debate. The Panthers are averaging 1163 according to official season count, but game photos are not supporting this number by any means.
Thanks to sponsored efforts by FAU Student Government and Alumni Affairs, and a decent contingency of non-student fans making the trip, the Owls will likely enjoy a travel party of 50+ that could disrupt the historically docile atmosphere at US Century Bank Arena with relative ease.
Hopefully they will all get to sit together right behind the FAU bench to produce an effective "sixth man".
Regardless, Owls win.