March 27, 2015

FIU & UCF Move Football Season Opener

Guess the message to FIU hardcores is "start your Labor Day Weekend on Thursday night, college-style!"

The season opener for FIU and Central Florida, up at the Knights place, has been moved from Saturday Sept. 5 to Thursday, Sept. 3. Time not announced yet, but every electron of good sense says it'll be a night game.

 

March 22, 2015

MacLaren, Golf Rolling Well; Spring Practice, Day 2

After going almost two years between conference team titles in all sports, FIU could get two in three months.

The golf team, which brought home the 2013 Sun Belt Conference title, finished second in the Mountain View Collegiate with junior Meghan MacLaren (7-under 209) getting medalist by three shots. Freshman Katerina Krasnova (2-under 214) tied for 10th.

Finishing ahead of FIU: Ohio State. Among the 18 teams finishing behind FIU: Purdue, Kansas State, Iowa State, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and BYU. 

BASEBALL

Junior Edwin Rios went into Saturday's game against Charlotte barely hitting his weight. He came out a chunk closer to C.C. Sabathia's weight, up to .256, after going four for four with three home runs in a 23-1 Saturday mercy rule rout of Charlotte. It was the first homer hat trick in Conference USA since June 5, 2010.

Senior Brian Portelli went four for five with four RBI and a homer as FIU finally stopped making every lefthanded opposing pitcher look like Warren Spahn. The Panthers need to use this weekend against Charlotte and next weekend against Marshall to turn around this 10-13 season that's been the epitome of underachievement.

(I'm sure all the FIU players and coaches had the same thought you just did -- boy, wish they could store some of those runs...)

FOOTBALL

FIU football held its second spring practice Saturday morning. Ron Turner would address the outside media for the first time this spring. Practice was closed.

Not enough of a draw for me to wrestle South Florida/South Beach traffic on a scheduled day off with the NCAA tournament, naps and vacation staring me in the face. If something serious happens while I'm on vaca (i.e., coach firing, notable player transferring in or out, players showing full or just too much monty at the beach), I'll suit up and get back in the game. Otherwise...

IMG_1495

 

Silvia School Record, Gets 19th; Gustafsdottir 44th at NCAAs

Seems like I've read this before...

FIU freshman Silvia Scalia, the heir to Johanna Gustafsdottir as the top swimmer on FIU's roster, reset her own 200 backstroke record during the Saturday afternoon prelims at the NCAA Championships in Greenboro, North Carolina.

Scalia's 1:53.54 knocked 26 hundredths of a second off the record she set in taking the event at the Conference USA Championships. It placed her 20th in the field at the NCAAs.

Gustafsdottir swam the 200 breastroke, the last swim of her FIU career, Saturday in 2:13.57, the 44th fastest time. 

March 20, 2015

Scalia School Record, 20th; Gustafsdottir 33rd at NCAAs

FIU freshman Silvia Scalia, the heir to Johanna Gustafsdottir as the top swimmer on FIU's roster, reset her own 100 backstroke record during the Friday afternoon prelims at the NCAA Championships in Greenboro, North Carolina.

Scalia's 52.46 knocked 16 hundredths of a second off the record she set in taking the event at the Conference USA Championships. It placed her 20th in the field at the NCAAs.

Gustafsdottir swam the 400 individual medley Friday in 4:12.70, the 33rd fastest time. Saturday, the final day, Scalia swims in the day's first event, the 200 back, and Gustafsdottir swims in the 200 breaststroke.

March 19, 2015

First Day of Spring Football Quick Hits

Practice was closed, sort of -- classes in the suites weren't cancelled, so someone who cared to look noticed that junior Anthon Samuel got the first running back reps of the drills seen with sophomores Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell behind him.

Alex Gardner's laptop screen saver is a shot of the play against Marshall on which his season ended last year. It reminds him of how much he missed.

Freshman Anthony Jones said he lined up at wide receiver Thursday. Not a tall young man, but a thick one -- big chest and arms, looks sturdy enough to take some hits without breaking.

BASEBALL

An injury to the groin area will cost senior third baseman Josh Anderson a month of this season. And so does FIU's baseball season continue to spin out. The 9-12 Panthers get a chance to turn things around with Charlotte coming in for three games this weekend.

 

 

Gustafsdottir Starts NCAAs; Horner Extended -- UPDATED

The swimmer who most helped Randy Horner lift FIU from mud to magnificent, senior Johanna Gustafsdottir, begins the benediction of her fantastic FIU career with the 200 individual medley at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships this morning. FIU chose this same morning to announce a contract extension for Horner through 2018-19.

Horner's deal was set to expire at the end of April.

Regular blog readers know the transformation that's occurred under Horner on all fronts: from Sun Belt non-entity to 2015 Conference USA champion and a No. 5 national ranking among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com; the most consistently academically strong team at FIU; the most consistent supporter of fellow athletes by attending their games (and that's saying something on a campus where the athletes tend to be each other's biggest fans.).

 

This started with Horner's first recruiting class, in 2011. CollegeSwimming.com thought the ace in that deck was Gustafsdottir, a stud international swimmer for Iceland at one point. Funny because Horner certainly didn't. Neither did she. She spent most of her freshman season shedding weight and the crust from burn out and two years away from competitive swimming.

Her emergence at that year's Sun Belt Championships, at which she won Swimmer of the Year, ignited a career that put firmed up a soft FIU record book and picked up enough hardware for an aisle at Ace: 2012 Sun Belt Swimmer of the Year, 2015 Conference USA Swimmer of the Year, 10 individual conference titles, four relay titles, including the baddest relay anchor leg you'll ever see in this year's C-USA Championships 400 freestyle relay.

Gustafsdottir loves FIU. She said she cried during that relay. She cried when FIU beat the Hurricanes to finish this year 10-0 in dual meets. At the welcome home from the Conference USA meet, when FIU CFO Kenneth Jewell recounted the 400 free relay for those gathered, she almost lost it again. After the conference meet, she sounded almost giddy when talking about the program's future and that she can't wait to be a proud alumnus.

(She also said "I've got to get ready for NCAAs. Hopefully, I do better than I have in the past.")

I asked her before the conference meet if she at all envisioned her FIU life going this way when she first came.

“No, never," she replied. "I didn’t swim for two years before I came here. I was happy that I was started back up. I never thought my success would be this good. I’m happy with it.So now after conference and NCAA, I have the Olympics to focus on. I’ll stay here. I’ll most likely stay here (to train).”

UPDATE

Gustafsdottir, with a 1:57.33 seed time that was 27th fastest, swam 1:58.18 Thursday morning, the 28th fastest time.

Friday, Gustafsdottir swims the 400 IM and freshman Silvia Scalia does the 100 backstroke.

 

March 18, 2015

MacLaren Gets Golfer of the Week

Junior Meghan MacLaren led FIU to the Sun Belt Conference title as a freshman. Looks like she's ready to do the same in Conference USA this season.

MacLaren won her third conference Golfer of the Week award of the season off a tie for 10th in the Notre Dame Clover Cup with an 8-over 224. FIU finished fifth as a team behind No. 22 Arizona State, Notre Dame, Texas Christian and Oklahoma.

 

 

March 17, 2015

Spring Football Practices Now Closed

FIU announced today that spring football practices will be closed. Below is the schedule for the practices you won't be able to attend and the spring game for which you'll be invited to come in and sit a spell.

Mar. 19, 21, 24, 28, 31, Apr. 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Mar. 26: 10 a.m.

Apr. 3: 7 p.m.

Apr. 17: Spring Game, 7 p.m.

For what it's worth, if this scuttles your football practice viewing plans, the sand volleyball team practices around the same time and they're 7-1 with a No. 7 ranking in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

 

 

Rosenberg on Garcia

FIU President Mark Rosenberg did the most recent evaluation of Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Pete Garcia in January.

Rosenberg complimented Garcia on improvements in several administrative areas and student-athlete academic performance. Rosenberg showed displeasure with fund-raising, attendance and some other areas.

Here's the full evaluation, done in the same two-page letter form as the previous evaluation.

Download Pete Garcia 13-14 Manager Evaluation

March 16, 2015

Lifesavers

During Spring Break, swimmers Jessica Chadwick and Chase Harris did the greatest deed -- extended themselves in an effort to save the lives of two people they didn't know who got caught in rip currents.

Here's the most recent report from WPBF-Channel 25.

 

 

March 12, 2015

This Long Shot Rimmed Out

Disney does Cinderella, animated and live action. Conference USA doesn't.

No seed lower than No. 9 has won C-USA's men's basketball tournament. Only two such seeds made it to the third day. So, when Dennis Mavin's heaved FIU onto SportsCenter and into the second round against No. 2 seed UTEP, you knew the thrilling finish either would spark a historic, miraculous run or be an emotional Olympus before UTEP brought that day-after-ULTRA feeling.

UTEP 83, FIU 71.

On the upside, if you're going to go two and barbecue, at least they're in Birmingham, home of some darn fine barbecue. And FIU won't have to pay that local high school band to stand-in for the FIU Pep Band kept home by finances (not sure which department is responsible, but FIU should be beyond that).

FIU loses leading scorer Dennis Mavin and starter Kris Gulley among its main cogs. Mavin's ability to score one-on-one to one-on-three will be tough to replace, although that might force the Panthers to develop better ball movement, which would make for a better offense overall. Also, this season was Transition Year Part II under Anthony Evans. Next year, with a third season of recruiting, second without big NCAA sanctions hanging over his head, should be the year Evans molds and cooks the Panthers into the kind of team he wants them to be.

I don't know if I'd call FIU a Conference USA favorite next year, but I'd be surprised if they didn't reach the conference tournament above .500 overall and among the top three seeds.

 

March 11, 2015

Tryin' One

Some people might not know where FIU is. But everybody at the Conference USA men's basketball tournament knows the "F" in FIU definitely isn't for "Foreplay."

Not after the Panthers won the tournament's opening game with what'll probably be the tournament's best climax, a just-inside halfcourt buzzer beater by Dennis Mavin. Texas-San Antonio got sent home 57-54 as Mavin channeled both U.S. Reed and Semi-Tough's Astronaut Jones. "Tryin' one..."

Now, FIU comes back Thursday to play a rested UTEP team in a rematch of the most incongruous game of the season. FIU got down by 14 early to what looked like, by record and play, clearly a better side. But the Panthers painstakingly made up ground as UTEP crumbled under FIU's occasional ball pressure the way the Panthers have at times this season. FIU also made its free throws (15 of 19). UTEP didn't, 18 of 32. Adrian Diaz took only seven shots in 37 minutes as the Miners put the defensive focus on the Panthers' big man. That left open chances for Daviyon Draper's 21 points, which backed up Mavin's 23.

In the end, it was a putback off an offensive rebound and a free throw off another offensive rebound that won the game for UTEP.

Some things I noted about Thursday's win:

*FIU gained three-point equivalency, hitting eight of 21 while UTSA hit eight of 23. Even subtracting Mavin's desperation shot, that's still playing on even terms behind the arc, something FIU usually wasn't doing in conference games.

*FIU got away with going five of 10 from the free throw line because UTSA shot eight of 14 and because of Mavin's shot. Ray Rodriguez missed the second of two free throws that would've made it a two-possession game. Instead, the Roadrunners tied the game with a three-pointer and were looking at overtime. Now, they're looking at home.

*Nine players saw the floor for FIU. Six played at least 20 minutes. Diaz played only 30 while Michael Phillip subbed for 10, a plus for FIU. On the other hand, guards Mavin and Ray Rodriguez played 36 and 37 minutes respectively. Thursday's only Day 2 of the tournament, but let's see if UTEP tries to step things up and force FIU's guards to play at a faster pace.

 

Next Steps

A few things about FIU's Conference USA tournament opener against Texas-San Antonio today at 1 p.m. while I try to find somewhere that'll consistently update me on the NCAA Zone Diving stuff...

*When teams see a future opposing player and say, "That right there is a problem," they either deal with the problem or figure they'll live with it and deal with everything else. FIU's opponents tend to take the latter approach.

Adrian Diaz, all 6-10 of him, is the problem FIU presents opponents. He's got good touch with decent range at the offensive end -- 60.9 percent from the field -- and is sixth in the nation in blocked shots without being so slap happy he gets way out of position. 

(Digression: Is the person who nicknamed Diaz "the Hialeah Hammer," a name that belongs on a well-known thug or fantastic handyman, the same person who came up with "Paws Up," which makes it sound like the animal in question is on its back and dead? If so, stop naming stuff. Or make your next suggestion, "Sunblazers.")

Teams have learned to let Diaz get his, try to make things difficult for senior guard Dennis Mavin then say to the rest of the Panthers "And, what?" FIU needs to get an offensive answer to that from Daviyon Draper mid-range or inside, Ray Rodriguez/Marco Porcher Jimenez from three or Kris Gulley from anywhere.

*Inability to consistently move the ball for open outside shots makes FIU too reliant on Diaz inside. There's a negligible difference in success percentages in conference games -- 32.3 for FIU, 33.7 for opponents -- but the Panthers drown in the volume. Opponents have hit 136 three-pointers to 76 for FIU or 7.56 per game to  4.22. That's nearly a 10-point per game difference.

*FIU gets the defensive side of the game, tying UAB for the conference lead in allowing only 41.0 percent shooting from the field. They can't let teams shoot 25 to 30 free throws a game, however. Speaking of which...

*I don't think I've covered a season with more consistently bad free throw shooting from both teams. The only reason FIU's opponents, 64.3 percent from the line, aren't more embarrassed is that FIU sank them at only 63.5 percent. In a tournament situation, it's tough to win four games in four days without at least above average free throw shooting.

I first heard this old saw -- "My Daddy says there are two things that don't last too long -- dogs that chase cars and teams that don't hit their free throws" -- from Wyoming coach Benny Dees early in the 1987 NCAA tournament. Over the next two weeks, I watched Indiana win the national championship partially because three consecutive opponents went four of 10, 11 of 19 and 10 of 20 from the line, including missing late one-and-ones.

*It goes without saying if a 20-turnover game gets FIU tickets on a next day flight home.

 

 

 

March 10, 2015

Diaz on Conference USA All-Defensive Team

Redshirt junior center Adrian Diaz's 82 blocked shots, easily an FIU single season record, boosted him onto the Conference USA All-Defensive Team, announced Tuesday morning. Diaz ranks sixth in the nation with 3.06 blocks per game.

"I just did what I thought I had to do to help the team win," Diaz said. "In hihg school, I was always an offensive threat. College made me realize it's not all about offense."

The conference named UTEP 6-7 forward Julian Washburn Defensive Player of the Year and Old Dominion junior guard Trey Freeman as Newcomer of the Year. Charlotte 6-4 guard Torin Dorn was Freshman of the Year. UAB freshman Chris Cokley was Sixth Man of the Year.

Comprising the All-Defensive Team with Diaz and Washburn were Charlotte senior guard Pierra Henry; Louisiana Tech's Michael Kyser and Kenneth "Speedy" Smith.

FIU plays Texas-San Antonio in the first game of the Conference USA tournament Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern time. 

 

March 09, 2015

Diaz Gets Player of the Week

Center Adrian Diaz should be on Conference USA's All-Defensive team, which will be announced Tuesday. Monday, the league honored him as Player of the Week after his triple double Saturday against Alabama-Birmingham.

And it wasn't the usual points-rebounds-assists triple double. Diaz scored 14, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked 13 shots, tying a Conference USA single game blocks record set by Marshall's Hassan Whiteside -- yes, that Hassan Whiteside -- in 2010. It's also the most in a college game this season.

Diaz had 17 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots against Middle Tennessee Thursday night. He's sixth in the nation in blocked shots.

 

Pound Gets Freshman of the Year (no kidding...)

The next FIU women's basketball coach gets at least one potential building block out of this year's disastrous three-win, 0-for-the-conference season -- redshirt freshman forward Kiandre'a Pound, named Conference USA Freshman of the Year Monday.

C-USA named Pound Freshman of the Week six times, by far the most of any player this season, so this is A=B, B=C, A=C stuff. Pound led FIU in scoring, 14.8 points per game, and was second in rebounding. 

The men, the No. 10 seed, play No. 7 Texas-San Antonio Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern time in the first game of the Conference USA tournament. A win there would pit FIU against No. 2 seed UTEP at 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. 

 

Mavin Second Team All-Conference USA

In Conference USA games, perhaps the only equitable way to use statistics to compare within the conference, FIU senior guard Dennis Mavin averaged 17.8 points per game (third in the league) and 3.28 assists per game (ninth).

That's why Mavin was named Second Team All-C-USA today.

Tuesday, the conference will announce the All-Defensive team, which should include center Adrian Diaz, sixth in the nation in blocked shots (3.06 per game).

Sunday, redshirt freshman forward Kiandre'a Pound, six times Conference USA's Freshman of the Week, logically was named to the conference's All-Freshman women's basketball team.

March 06, 2015

Gulley & Davydova CUSA All-Academic; Softball beginnings, hoops endings

Before we head out to The Blue Monster to watch the course do to the world's best golfers what the Composite Superman used to do to Superman and Batman, a few things...

Senior Kris Gulley, a transfer from Long Beach State and working toward his criminal justice graduate degree, was named to the Conference USA men's basketball All-Academic team Friday.

The women's basketball season ends Saturday to the relief of all concerned. They didn't come close to qualifying for the Conference USA tournament. Don't be surprised if center Marita Davydova remembers this season more fondly than anyone else, however.

She played this season after being ineligible last season in a paperwork screwup by the previous Compliance Department. Individually, her 9.9 rebounds per game puts her among the national leaders. And, Thursday, Conference USA announced the economics major's 3.7 grade point average put her on the league's All-Academic women's basketball team.

The men end a truly weird regular season with Saturday's Senior Night, at which they'll honor seniors Gulley, Dennis Mavin, Marco Porcher Jimenez.

In conference only games, Mavin averages 17.8 points per game, third in C-USA. Jimenez averages 14.5 minutes per game as a three-point specialist. Gulley averages 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

SOFTBALL

Softball starts its conference schedule with weekend three-game series against 13-5 Marshall, a doubleheader Saturday at 4 p.m. and a 1 p.m. Sunday game.

The series features two of the conference's best hitters. From FIU, there's sophomore Stephanie Texeira, hitting .528, third in the conference, with six homers, 26 RBI and 1.057 slugging percentage. Marshall's Morgan Zerkle hits .531 with 11 RBI and goes when she gets on -- 27 steal attempts, 25 successful, almost twice as much as anyone else in C-USA.

ON THE HUNT

 

March 04, 2015

NCAA officially selects swimmers; Golfer in World Top 50

UPCOMING HOME MATCHES/GAMES

Baseball: vs. UConn, Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.

Softball: vs. Marshall, Saturday, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. 

Barring incredible breaking news, the forecast predicts light blogginess over the next few days as I'm sent to my yearly arranged marriage with Doral and the PGA Tour. A couple of things before I go back to cleaning out my car, Publix apple strudel and Law & Order: SVU...

Senior Johanna Gustafsdottir and freshman Silvia Scalia were selected for the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, Mar. 19-21, in Greensboro, North Carolina (nice people, ehh town). Gustafsdottir will swim the 200 and 400 individual medley while Scalia will handle the 100 and 200 backstroke.

Last year, Sonia Perez finished 13th in the 400 IM at the NCAAs, scoring the first swimming points for FIU at the championships.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Junior Meghan MacLaren's eight-stroke rout in the rain-shortened Amelia Island Collegiate moved her up 13 spots to No. 49 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She was also Golfweek's National Player of the Week.

Not sure how she wasn't Conference USA's player of the week, but you know how that goes...

 

 

March 03, 2015

Football Staff Filled Out

When Chitlin Circuit and comedy record legend Redd Foxx got the starring role in his own TV series, Sanford & Son, he took care of his friends. Lawanda Page, who played Aunt Esther, was his oldest friend and introduced Foxx to his first wife. Don Bexley and Pat Morita also benefited from their friend in the way of recurring supporting roles, valuable work to actors and comedians. Other Chitlin Circuit stars such as Slappy White did guest star one shot appearances.

The coaching business is packed with Redd Foxxes.

FIU announced the hiring of Ron Cooper as assistant head coach-defensive backs assistant. This completes the football coaching staff, although even an auto racing history geek like myself wouldn't call it a Cooper Climax.

Cooper's connection to FIU head coach Ron Turner: they were both on the Tampa Bay staff in 2012. Cooper's been a head coach at Alabama A&M, Eastern Michigan and Louisville and an assistant on enough staffs to fill a walk-in closet with coaching polo shirts.

There's some shuffling of responsibilities. Tem Lubaku, hired as linebackers' coach last month, now will handle the defensive line. Defensive coordinator Matt House takes over the linebackers.

Not a great Sanford & Son clip, but it's got Aunt Esther, The Big One and nothing that'll offend or cause too many folks discomfort in our sensitive age. 

 

 


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