FIU coach Isiah Thomas had said he hoped the way the Panthers lost close games last season taught them how to win them this season. It took time, but they showed they did Monday night against George Mason in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Tip Off.
After DeJuan Wright missed three free throws down the stretch in regulation, FIU bounced back to dominate overtime and upset GM, 79-76. FIU led almost the entire last 12 minutes of regulation behind Wright and fellow senior Jeremy Allen, but were down 66-64 on their last regulation possession. Allen made a nice penetration, then sneaky pass inside to Wright, who got the short shot and the foul. Wright missed the free throw and George Mason missed a jumper at the other end.
Can't say I wasn't warned.
As I sat at the makeshift desk I like to use near the U.S. Century Bank racquetball courts Monday afternoon, a passing FIU athletic department staffer asked me if I thought FIU would win. I shook my head as if he asked, "Do you want Brussels sprouts?" He said he thought FIU would pull it off and wasn't just talking stuff. He listed logical reasons -- Mason is in their second game under a new coach, the point guard is suspended for 10 games, they played lousy defense and shot horribly from 3-point range in beating Rhode Island in overtime Friday.