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Panthers vs. Hilltoppers -- again

How many FIU sports seasons over the last two years have ended or pivoted on games against Western Kentucky? None of those games stand larger than Monday night’s win-and-you’re-in game for the Sun Belt men’s basketball title and automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Appropriately, FIU split with Western this season. 

The first game, a 76-63 FIU loss, turned on Western’s bench points, where the Hillpeople had a 37-10 advantage. Also, during the decisive second half run that took Western’s lead from one to 11, the Hilltoppers’ seven to four rebounding advantage led to eight free throws and two three-pointers while FIU managed only four free throws, two of which came off a technical foul.

In FIU’s 87-82 win, both teams burned up the nets in the first half – 62.5 percent for FIU, 60.0 for Western – but Western cooled off more than FIU did in the second half. FIU took a four-point lead out to 11 in the first 7:27 of the second half as Western went one for four from three-point range and missed two layups while the Panthers came up with a couple of steals. In that FIU run, the Panthers got three-pointers from Jerome Frink and Tola Akomolafe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – three-point shots by either of those guys, especially Akomolafe, are so low percentage that they’re bad shots even if they drop. FIU eventually led by 15 in the second half.

This also matches a team leaving the Sun Belt after this year against a Sun Belt overall athletic power that’s staying. I’m not saying that’s an automatic disadvantage for FIU. The conveniently questionable Sun Belt officiating I saw during FIU’s football season generally didn’t have a parallel in men’s basketball games I covered. And sometimes zebra bias isn’t conscious. But as a possible factor in what should be a close game, it can’t be discounted.

No matter the outcome, I'm feeling pretty vindicated in my vote for Richard Pitino as Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

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Your vote for Richard Pitino has been certainly vindicated by this season so far. It will be enhanced tonight if FIU can come away with a victory.

Go Panthers!!

Been a fun team to follow all season. For all the hate directed towards Garcia for his "questionable" decisions (and there definitely have been quite a few), firing Isiah and bringing in Pitino could go down as one of the best decisions he'll ever make. I'm not being knee jerk either I've been saying this all season, guy can flat out coach... Once he gets some of his recruits in and we move on to a better conference sky is the limit for the BBall program (or at least until one of the big boy schools snatches up Pitino, but hopefully after a solid foundation for the program is established)

Anyways, excited for the game. Any fellow FIU alums in the DC area there is a watch party at Blackfinn tonight.

Go FIU!

FIU has a basketball team?

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