Saturday night at The Branch, I wonder if anybody had a Joe Montana-John Candy moment. You know, looking off the court and seeing, "Hey, that's Ray Taylor over there!" or "Hey, check it out -- people actually in the cabanas!"
That contribution to a solid gathering helped give The Branch good life throughout FIU's 66-57 win. The court and the cabanas, as such things go, now just seem normal, although I still like the uniqueness of each. The only thing two things beach-like about Saturday night's game, in fact: the Spotlight Dance Academy preteens creepily twerking like they worked at Club Madonna (accompanied by little girls creepily made up like they worked for Iceberg Slim) at halftime and the way officials treated fifth-year senior forward Rakeem Buckles. The zebras imitated Miami Beach PD who wanted Buckles to move along during Urban Beach Weekend. To be fair, officiating helped neither team, but of Buckles' five fouls, I saw him commit two, maybe three.
FIU didn't give FAU's Pablo Bertone a chance to see much of anything in the first half. Bertone wound up with 19 points, right at his 18.1 per game average, but all of it came in the second half as FAU tried to come from 34-24 down at the half. The Give A Hoot, Don't Pollute guys never made it. In fact, after Tymell Murphy knocked down the game's first jumper less than 20 seconds into the contest, FIU never trailed or was tied.
Anyway, back to the defensive job on Bertone.
“I thought they paid extra attention to him,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “There wasn’t a time when he caught the ball that someone wasn’t on him. We let No. 12 get a couple of clean looks early. But I don’t think Bertone got any clean looks whether Dennis (Mavin) was on him or Tymell.”
Evans usually doesn't crack anything close to a joke in the postgame conference, win or lose. Saturday, after Murphy finished answering a question about his double doubles, Evans said, "He almost had a triple double..."
"Eight turnovers...," Murphy groaned.
"If he had two more turnovers, it's a triple double," Evans said.
"I was just looking at that," Murphy said. "That's horrible. I've got to be better."
When FIU needed offense, it was Murphy coming up with the tough move or rebound, Mavin using his quickness to break down the defense or sophomore forward Jerome Frink unafraid to take the shot. Defensively, Mavin and Murphy helped out down low well and Frink, again, always seeming to be there for a steal, block or rebound.
As Murphy left the postgame press conference, I said to him, "You hear your girl got 38?"
Murphy threw out more complimentary words about senior guard Jerica Coley, of whom Murphy's the biggest on-campus fan. UAB couldn't keep Coley from the hole and they couldn't keep Tynia McKinzie off hte boards.
Coley got her 38 strangely -- hitting five of nine from three-point range, but only seven of 26 from inside the arc. Still, you know what Coley's going to give as far as points almost every night. The difference in FIU winning or losing Saturday, as so often, is the supporting cast's production. McKinzie put in 10 points to go with her 19 rebounds.
And that's the difference between the 63-52 win and team failure.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Having a dysfunctional facility clearly didn"t affect Florida Gulf Coast's ability.
Pool problems caused the diving for Saturday's dual meet to be hosted by FIU while Gulf Coast hosted the swimming. Senior Sabrina Beaupre swept both the diving events while senior Sonia Perez Arau won the 1000 freestyle in school record time (10:07.06, knocking 4.3 seconds off her own FIU record) and took the 500 free and 400 individual medley, too. FIU coach Randy Horner called it the best dua meet of any athlete h'es coached.
Unfortunately for FIU, Gulf Coast won everything else and the meet, 189.5-109.5. The first dual meet loss of the year for FIU, No. 12 in CollegeSwimming.com's mid-major rankings (Gulf Coast was No. 9), comes a week before they face FAU in the season-ending dual meet.