Before taking their regular spot in the stands at the day's highlight FIU athletic event -- who else can claim to have been there for the rainy kickoffs of not only football vs. Louisville, but the women's soccer season opener? -- the swimming & diving team won the FIU Winter Invitational over TCU and Eastern Michigan.
Junior Sonia Perez jacked up her wins total to 15 this season by taking the 500 freestyle (4:59.32) and the 100 Individual Medley (59.52). Junior diver Sabrina Beaupre won the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions with totals of 307.35 and 314.77, respectively.
The women's game went about as expected, a 63-47 win for FIU. Louisiana-Lafayette came in 1-4 in the Sun Belt, the closest of the four losses by 12 points. As Lou-La threw a Polly Pocket-sized lineup on the floor, FIU wound up using only six players -- starters Jerica Coley, Finda Mansare, Marita Davydova, Kamika Idom, Carmen Miloglav and sixth woman Arielle Durant.
"It was a small group, so we couldn't get all those bigs in," FIU coach Cindy Russo said. "(Lou-La is) all guards except for one. Finda can keep up with them and the rest of our bigs couldn't. Zsofia Labady sprained her ankle. She'd usually be playing. I knew I'd have to play Kamika Idom as a four tonight."
Entertaining, thrilling, painful to watch in some spots...all describe the men's 75-70 win, especially in the second half. Some great defense, a lot of bad offense and even more poor shooting. I got one crack on Twitter about FIU coach Richard Pitino's comment that he worries about defense and rebounding, not "the ball going in," but that's pretty much in line with what I've heard said by many basketball coaches. Even a team of skilled gunners goes frigid sometimes. The best most hope for from offense is getting open shots for the right players in the right spots.
Malik Smith was one for 10 from three-point range before hitting the game's biggest shot with 1:30 left to give FIU a 67-64 lead. But, he was open, that's his shot and he's a shooter. On the other hand, any three-point tried by Jerome Frink or Tola Akomalafe qualifies as a lousy shot even if it goes in and should be grounds for two minutes on the bench. Hopefully, they will feel shame.
"Really, really happy with the effort," Pitino said. "This is the second game in a row where we got 50 plus deflections. Our goal is 35. so to be able to go twice in a row with 50 plus deflections is really good. Tymell (Murphy), 28 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and 10 deflections. So he's disrupting the game, changing the game with his effort. Deflections, all that is is a barometer of effort. They gave good effort against a very well-coached team, so we're really pround of the victory. They're only going to get better because they're really young and he's a great coach."
And there was actually something more resembling a crowd there to watch (official attendance: 855, actual attendance more like 500) than Wednesday.
By the way, for those upset at the video from Wednesday: go to a game! Don’t be angry with me or anybody else for showing that a program in its 26th season of Division I basketball, in a major city, started a home night game with a crowd smaller than my wedding (not an exaggeration). No weather issues, no quarantine. Yes, it's holiday break, but most of the eighth largest enrollment in the nation lives within this metropolitan area. This isn’t some remote college town. Blame Florida A&M's local alums and fans, too. No few of them locally, but fewer than 100 FAMU fans were in the house at peak. I'm not sure I've covered an FIU game with fewer fans at tipoff and I covered the last season of the Rich Walker era, when they played Yale the day after Christmas.
I shoot video when I see something worth trying to shoot and remember that I can do it ("I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can fly...(sound of splash)...I guess not.").
Nobody complained when I shot video of South Alabama's flouncing women's basketball coach or the controversial final seconds of the FAU-FIU men's game at The Branch last year or the women’s soccer team’s pre-practice Halloween costume party as they prepped for the Sun Belt tournament.
I don't know what the University of Miami drew for its most recent home game. And, I really don't care. I don't cover that school and wasn't covering that game. I'm equal opportunity. I've ripped UM for its crowds, too.
Monday's men's home game against Bethune-Cookman starts at 1 p.m., so as not to clash with the BCS Championship Game. OK, so FIU plays a weekday game at midday to avoid going head-to-head with a football game involving two schools most of their locally-based student body grew up despising if they cared about them at all...but won't move Saturday games to the afternoon, just to try it. Granted, winter Saturday afternoons in Miami aren't the gray, cold, pass-the-Grand Marnier-and-hot-chocolate blocs of time that they are in Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, etc.
But it's worth a shot.