NC Central (1-2) at Florida International (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 20th, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: NC Central 1-0, FIU 1-0. Away Record: NC Central 0-0, FIU 0-3. Neutral Record: NC Central 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: NC Central 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Isiah Thomas has his first win as the head coach of the Florida International Golden Panthers, but it is now time to look towards more lofty goals as his team clashes with North Carolina Central as part of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at US Century Bank Arena.
FIU, which stands as the host school for this basketball series in Miami, had a rough start to the new season with three straight losses. The team bowed to the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels and then was bounced by both Monmouth and Tulsa as well out on the road.
Tuesday saw the team return home and play in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 and those onlookers were rewarded with an 88-82 victory over Florida Memorial, getting Thomas his first win in the college ranks.
As for the Eagles of NC Central, they also lost their first two games of the season, the first versus UNC ironically (89-42) and then to Miami-Florida (83-53) less than a week ago. The first win for the team finally arrived in the shape of an 85-70 triumph versus the Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan on Wednesday night.
Somehow the NC Central defense fell asleep on the job in the first half against Wesleyan earlier this week, allowing the visitors to shoot not only 64.3 percent from the field in the first half, but also 7-of-10 beyond the arc in the frame to knot the halftime score at 47-47. The second half was a much different story as Wesleyan was limited to a total of eight field goals and 1- of-11 out on the perimeter. T.J. Granger stepped up with 25 points and eight rebounds, both team highs for the Eagles, followed by Vincent Davis and C.J. Wilkerson with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Wilkerson is good for a team- best 14.0 ppg at the moment, playing more than 38 minutes per game. However, spending more time on the floor doesn't always bring out great results for him because he's is shooting just 36.1 percent from the field and that has brought the entire unit down to 37.9 percent. A bigger problem might be the lack of defense for this group because opponents have managed to convert 54.5 percent of their shots from the floor and that has led to a 20.7 scoring deficit between those teams and NC Central.
With a bit of a short bench, the Golden Panthers had five of their eight players score in double figures in the win over Florida Memorial, with Phil Gary leading the way with 27 points, although he was also guilty of eight of the squad's 21 turnovers as well. Coming off the bench, J.C. Otero registered one of the team's two double-doubles with his 16 points and team-best 14 rebounds, while Marvin Roberts accounted for 14 points, 13 boards and four assists to offset his five turnovers. The team held a 52-32 edge on the glass and outscored the visitors 31-12 at the free-throw line. Roberts is pacing this team in scoring over the first four games of the season with his 17.8 ppg and is also on top with 7.3 rpg, not to mention being one of the leaders in the passing department as well with 11 assists. However, all of those positive attributes don't excuse the fact that he is still shooting only 36.1 percent from the field and a mere 3-of-19 beyond the arc. Then again, three-point shooting doesn't appear to be a strength of this team anyway because they are all hitting at a miserable 22.2 percent clip.
One of these teams has to win tonight, but that doesn't mean it's going to be a good game. FIU has the advantage of being at home and perhaps that will be enough to get it over the hump.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida International 67, NC Central 60
11/20 10:55:45 ET