GAME NOTES: A first-ever meeting between members of Conference USA takes place tonight in Florida, as the FIU Golden Panthers entertain the Monarchs of Old Dominion.
Old Dominion is threatening to post a third straight win tonight, which is somewhat of an accomplishment seeing as how the program has won just three times since opening the campaign at 4-1. The Monarchs barely slipped by George Mason on Jan. 4 by a score of 71-66, but tallied a more comfortable victory this past weekend versus East Carolina on the road, 81-70, in the league opener.
Beating up on weaker programs, but at the same time losing to a school like Nova Southeastern (77-59) early last month, FIU is an enigma this year. The squad has dropped four of the last five outings, the lone win during the stretch coming against Rice on the road in a 71-60 final last week. Last Saturday, the team was blown out of the water by Louisiana Tech, 85-51.
Keenan Palmore was a near-perfect 11-of-13 from the floor against East Carolina, as the Monarchs claimed the double-digit win at Minges Coliseum. Aaron Bacote tacked on 18 points and handed out six assists, while Dimitri Batten posted 12 points for a team that shot an impressive 56.4 percent from the field and limited the Pirates to 40.0 percent from the floor and outscored the hosts in the paint by a massive 50-24 margin.
Hitting on 38.0 percent of his attempts behind the 3-point line, Bacote leads the Monarchs in scoring at the moment with his 18.6 ppg. Having made more free throws (88-of-109) than any of his teammates has yet to attempt, Bacote is also first in the passing department with 54 assists. Batten (11.8 ppg) and Palmore (10.7 ppg) both have more turnovers than assists at the moment and are converting less than 56.0 percent at the free-throw line, so having the ball in their hands is not always the best idea.
FIU went from leading by three points at the 6:27 mark of the first half to a 42-24 deficit at the break against Louisiana Tech and then fell behind even more in the second half as the Bulldogs cruised to the 34-point triumph in Ruston. Tymell Murphy and Dennis Mavin were the only ones to score in double figures for the visitors as they dropped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, the former adding nine rebounds and three steals.
Murphy, a 60.1 percent shooter from the floor, is leading the Golden Panthers in scoring with his 16.2 ppg, adding 7.9 rpg and 36 assists as he does everything he can to keep FIU competitive. Rakeem Buckles, who finished with almost as many turnovers (five) as points (seven) versus LaTech, checks in with 13.4 ppg and a team-best 9.6 rpg, but having the ball in his hands is not always the best option since he has just eight assists, against 35 turnovers.
ODU might not be that great on the road to this point in the campaign, but the talent is definitely there in the starting lineup and that should be enough to carry the Monarchs to victory tonight in the Sunshine State.
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