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Putting the Eagles on the Last Train to the Gulf Coast

Do we need more evidence that FIU needs to schedule Saturday afternoon basketball games much more regularly and not just when ordered to do so by television?

The Branch bounced Saturday afternoon throughout the fiesty 72-61 FIU win against Florida Gulf Coast. Right from the start, noise and fair insults blared from the student section, often so sullen during Saturday night games. They even got into the silly, fun Fathead race. Only seven percent of FIU students live in campus housing. I never understood why FIU expected a bunch of 18-to-22-year-olds to schlep out to Camp Mitch for a 7 p.m. game. Even leaving for home at 9, home by 9:30 or 10, that's too much activity too close to prep time for The Club or That Party. Get them to come in the afternoon and they can kill a couple of hours, be back home for a half-stepped dinner in the early evening and still have enough chill time before getting social.

There seemed to be more kids, also, which makes sense. I know to way too many Miami parents Saturday night means "bring the kids and the strollers because there's no bedtime for our little Bonzos!" But the rest of us want our younger kids in bed before 9 or 9:30. Or, we would like our Saturday nights to involve fewer kids and more caipirinhas. Grown Folks Time. We do stuff with the kids -- like take them to a basketball game -- in the morning or afternoon.

Anyway, there actually were a few times an adjacent person trying to talk to me couldn't do so for all the noise. Nice, that.

Early on, FIU barely could contain themselves in attacking Gulf Coast through the one-on-one matchups at the offensive end. There weren't many openings created by movement of player or ball. Unless, that is, it was the player with the ball darting, spinning, trying to go over his defender. I asked Rakeem Buckles, who had two what looked like overanxious travels early, if this was a matter of FIU just feeling they had such an advantage in those matchups. Buckles said, "The last couple of games, we were going against a lot of zone, so we were just excited to see a team run (man-to-man). We just knew we had the opportunity to take our man."

Buckles helped take Gulf Coast 6-9 starter Filip Cvjeticanin out of the game. Cvjeticanin came in hitting three-pointers at 50 percent and leading the Atlantic Sun Conference in number of threes. That range opens the driving lanes. His height creates matchup problems.

On an early Gulf Coast possession, one of Buckles' waving hands caught Filip in the face just before Filip misfired on a pass. Filip touched his face, then looked in disbelief at the nearby referee who somehow missed the call (maybe the zebra was thinking it must be a hassle sitting in the lifeguard chair unless you've got a brahma-sized bladder). When the same thing happened five minutes later, with 13:02 left in the first half, Buckles got called for the foul. Filip pump-faked a close-range two-handed pass at Buckles' head. That drew a technical foul. Buckles turned to walk away as teammates grabbed Filip.

No. 1, Filip gets scored as "Stoopid" because they were calling the foul. I could understand if Buckles got away with it both times, but Filip got the call. No. 2, I understand life in Croatia during Filip's childhood likely wasn't cereal and cartoons on Saturday morning. But Buckles is out of Liberty City by way of Opa-Locka. If you're going to try to intimidate or back off somebody with by faking some Mike Rice stuff, pick somebody with a more sedate background than Liberty City and Opa-Locka.

FIU's Jason Boswell hit both free throws. Filip had a seat. Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley should've left him there. His mind wasn't right. In the second half, Filip committed a turnover, then fouled Tymell Murphy in transition (two made free throws); missed three of four shots; after one miss, fouled Murphy on a layup (old fashioned three-point play); then later committed a turnover that Dennis Mavin turned into a layup and 68-58 lead. Filip wound up playing only 19 minutes, 7.7 minutes below his average; going one for five from the field with four turnovers and four fouls. Considering how close the game was until it turned into an FIU Free Throw Challenge, that ineptitude could've cost Gulf Coast the game.

Murphy kept being Mr. Positive throughout the six minutes Gulf Coast, which has three starters back from last year's Sweet Sixteen team, dominated in the second half.

"They just made some runs," Murphy said. "I didn't want anybody to lay their heads down. There was still a lot of time left. I tried to tell them, it's OK. We've just  got to clamp down on defense. I tried to keep clapping, keep showing that even though they were winning by 7 or however they were up by, it was all right. We were going to make our run, too."

FIU coach Anthony Evans said, "He said in the huddle, 'Coach, I'm going to step up to the challenge.' And he did that at both ends of the floor. He's not the guy who we put on one of their best players. We normally put Dennis on him. But they had multiple people who can penetrate, attack the basket."

One of those people, Brett Comer, saw his layup attempt rejected so strongly by Murphy, it got a ticket on the Turnpike. That came in the middle of the 9-0 run that turned the game to FIU. You could actually feel the crowd at an FIU game.

Good feeling. It's a shame they're off for two weeks before playing Louisville.


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Good game and great atmosphere, from everyone attending the game. Winning, coupled with some good marketing and an opponent with some name, does that for attendance and atmosphere.

Nice win guys! Go Panthers!

DJN, master of the anecdote and king of the visual description. Well done sir! Or nice, that.

Why is Pete Garcia, and Coach Turner still employed? What is FIU waiting for? If they are going to keep them, then announce to keep them. If not, the fire them already. Is not like we are waiting for a bowl game. It makes me think that FIU wants to fire them, but are so in debt that they will not do so. DNJ, are the contracts of Garcia and Turner garanteed? If they are fired, how much money do they have to pay them. FIU is $6,000,000 in debt; and can not afford to make changes.

BTW, I went by the so called "Greek Tailgate", LMAO, wow!!! No wonder nobody goes to sporting events at FIU, there is more excitement and people at local H.S. sporting events.

My goodness with the obsession of some people. This guy...supposedly an FIU fan....talking about PG and now Turner when the blog is about basketball and a GREAT attendance and atmosphere. Yet, this "new" poster writes the same baseless diatribe we've been reading for just over a year now. Ridiculous and childish behavior.

When a good journalist such as David Neal writes about the need to schedule more afternoon games because of attendance concerns, you know we aren't dealing with a normal athletic department. Everything the AD's office does is flawed. That is the problem. Until changes at the top are made, we will watch, criticize and scold. It isn't fair to the student athletes and many of the coaches that they have to suffer because of poor facilities, broken or empty promises and incompetent sports marketing people. Fire Pete as recommended and planned and you will see a change in sentiment of FIU followers. We are waiting for the next shoe to drop. Garcia's past behavior is a predictor of his future behavior. He will screw up and wind up in trouble. This is guaranteed.

Congrats men's hoop! Great win for this young team. Congrats Coach Evans, sorry that you STILL have Mr. Garcia as a boss.

Was RT on the sidelines of the Browns game? Curious how our inside blogger source did with that scoop.

I love when John "Switch"es and becomes Nick Walsh. It's the world's worst kept secret, as they're the only two agreeing with each other and tent to post before and after each other.

Nick, as always, you're a fraud. Who "recommended" firing PG? Was it in that infamous consultants report you clung to, until Neal posted it and proved you wrong?Have you ever once been correct at anything? Just once

Nice win Panthers!!! I want PG out but this is about basketball victory. It's all about FIU, no one person is bigger than the 3 letters in the front of our uniforms.

Sorry, DJN thanks for write up on the game.

You know, I wasn't too sure how I felt about the beach theme on the court when they first shared the design. It looked better in person the first time I saw it, but still wasn't sold on it. Have to admit, it's grown on me and I'm now a fan.

Thanks for the positive article. Kinda makes you forget about Nova, doesn't it? As for Saturday afternoon games, I think you're on to something. What if the same thing was done for football? UCF was an incredible atmosphere early in the day. Heck, it never seemed to hurt that Coral Gables school when they brought teams down to swelter, while the stands were filled with families. I hope some FIU higher ups are reading this blog!

Keep the night games for football. Love the long tailgate times. Also, if you're looking to get an advantage by playing in afternoon, we're screwed. Let's beat our opponents by recruiting athletes that fit our system and out working the competition.

D. Neal, have Hickman or Faciane been invited to any college senior bowl games? If no, can Coach Turner use his connections to make it happen?

HUGE Win for the team. Also want to give a little love to Jerica for everything she has done in the last four years. By far one of the best athlets to step foot on campus. Very classy girl. I hope the WNBA has a nice contract waiting for her.

As for the Men's team.. Just thinking how bad this team was two years ago. Starting last year the team has made drastic changes (including a ver unique court) and its starting to pay off. Not sure how we will do once we hit conference play but Im very excited. Just to be among the top half of the team in C-USA would be a huge step forward. Hope to make the next big game at the Bank..

Go Panthers!

It's a simple blueprint for winning employed by the likes of the Hurricanes and Dolphins for years. Those two teams have at least two things FIU doesn't. A winning tradition and a fan base. It's ok to dislike the little private school in the Gables, but it's just idiotic to refuse to follow their winning example for the sake of a higher blood alcohol content. It's not like the New England Patriots want to add a dome to take away their home field advantage during this time of year. Why should we give away ours?

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