No hanging drummers Monday night at The Branch. The athletic department threw another postgame party, though, which helped pack the students into the lower portion of the arena for the win against Stetson.
Early in the game, FIU's movement without the ball on offense could be described as "statuesque" and not the way you'd use the word for fashion models. It was Taylor who eventually got things and people moving.
"In the beginning, I thought we were stagnant because they were playing a 3-2 matchup," FIU coach Anthony Evans said. "It was kind of a switching zone. We were stagnant because we didn't see the normal cuts, the normal post ups that we were looking for. So we had to go to the third and fourth option. Also, if we defend and get out in transition, we don't have to sit in the half court all the time."
Evans sat Taylor down 2:51 into th second half as FIU's 37-30 halftime lead was down to 37-34. Evans also sat Rakeem Buckles down for all but four minutes of the first half, dissatisfied with Buckles' defense. Also, he felt it gives the team a chance to develop a chemistry without Buckles because they can get too reliant on him. Taylor said something similar about rebounding.
"Everybody's just used to him collecting all the boards every time a team misses," Taylor said. "With him not being on the court, it's 'Oh, Rock's not here to rebound.' You've got to program yourself to go back and get the board.
Asked if Buckles' school record-tying eight blocks makes up for a six-point night offensively, Evans laughed, "No. No. He got the eight blocks, that's OK, but naw, naw, naw. I'm proud of his effort in the second half and he played close to what I was asking. So I'm happy with that."
On Dennis Mavin, who had four steals, three assists and two key three-pointers, Evans said, "We can always count on Dennis defensively. The more he plays the more confident he's become. He hit two big shots. He hit a big shot in the last game (Saturday's win against Texas Southern) to put us up two."
Taylor said he hadn't been happy with his finishing at the rim, so he came into early to work on it.
This is definitely a more athletic team overall than last year's. Defensively, they leave too many open lanes to the hoop. But, as Taylor pointed out, if the season were a game, they'd still be early in the first half. There's time to get it together.
FIU coach Ron Turner said both E.J. Hilliard and Jake Medlock likely will play this week against Marshall. Medlock was limited in Tuesday's practice after injuring a finger Saturday against UTEP.
Turner called Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato "as good as we've seen all year," ranking him with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Turner also took the time to extol the Panthers overall effort and persistence in a sudden soliloquy I'll transcribe for later posting.