Too bad about that 9-0 first half ending run by Louisville. The second half felt like a MTV/Fox Sports 1 production, FIU Unplugged. Both the team and the crowd. Louisville traveled pretty well, too, which helped fill The Branch in somewhat.
On FIU's first possession, Rakeem Buckles rushed a shot, Louisville got the board and drew a foul in transition. That's exactly what FIU coach Anthony Evans didn't want, and it was a pattern repeated by FIU throughout. Buckles, a stand-up guy, admitted afterwards he forced too many shots (four for 17 from the field, four turnovers). He wasn't alone. As a team, FIU seemed to take Louisville's invitation to take the lane via the dribble, then found the Cardinals help turning the lane into the maw of a Venus Flytrap (and not the cool WKRP kind). What the Panthers got away with against Florida Gulf Coast they didn't in this game. Six assists after 48 minutes says you didn't move the ball well enough to beat another FIU, never mind a Louisville.
The officiating seemed effete for the styles. When you've got pressuring, trapping Louisville and FIU's defense department store, Blocks, you can't call the game like you're chaparoning a first date at Bob Jones University. Or, you can and it winds up playing to the deeper team's advantage. Bench points: Louisville 30, FIU 5. That was 22-0 in the first half.
I'm not one to complain about concession stands at FIU. Usually, it's student-athletes manning the stands when you know they'd rather be doing, oh, anything else, and they do a good job. Also, speaking as a 46-year-old with the sleep habits of a 22-year-old, I've noted that no matter which team has the stand at a venue, somebody always knows how to make cafe cubano.
Saturday, fail and it's not on whatever volunteers/student-atheltes were there. Whoever manages the concessions didn't order enough hamburgers. Customers were told the stand was out of cheeseburgers at 5:45, 20 minutes before scheduled tipoff. I knew this because I was standing in line to order a colada, an act that wound up holding up my line for several minutes because nobody back in production knew how to make cuban coffee so the woman handling the line I was in had to go back to do it herself. Several fans worried that they'd miss tipoff. The guy next at the register when the woman left just wound up leaving.
To me, that's two basics of managing -- you're expecting a serious crowd, make sure there's enough food. And at a heavily Latin college in Miami, somebody in the back has to know how to make cuban coffee. This is akin to the football game stuff I pointed out before the Bethune game. Little things, but they go into each individual's image of your school. There were people in that line whose only experience at FIU was that game.
Similar to the men, the women got socked in the first half and couldn't get up, trailing 53-34 to Florida at halftime on the way to a 90-74 loss in the Gator Holiday Classic final. Jerica Coley got 35 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
FIU's women host the annual Sun & Fun Classic next weekend, playing Fairleigh Dickinson next Saturday at 6 p.m.