Holding a two-point lead with two seconds remaining in regulation Saturday night, the UTSA Roadrunners seemingly had wrapped up their first Conference USA victory of the season.
All they needed was a successful inbounds play to finish it off.
But in the end, Florida International junior forward Eric Lovett spoiled it, disrupting the pass, picking up a loose ball and then banking in a 15-foot shot at the buzzer for the tie.
From there, the Panthers exploded past the Roadrunners, 90-83, in overtime at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami.
UTSA — 6-9, 0-2
FIU — 11-4, 2-0
A disappointing finish
The collapse at the end of regulation and overtime sullied an otherwise solid road performance for the Roadrunners.
They played well against an FIU team that had won seven of its last eight, including a 69-67 home victory over UTEP Thursday night in the C-USA opener.
In fact, it appeared as if UTSA would steal the victory in the final few minutes with a 6-0 run that included three straight defensive stops.
Two free throws by Keaton Wallace lifted the Roadrunners into a 77-74 lead with 7.9 seconds remaining.
On the other end, FIU senior guard Trejon Jacob was fouled and knocked down his first free throw. He missed the second one, but senior forward Osasumwe Osaghae snared the rebound.
Osaghae went to the line with 2.7 seconds left and missed the first one. At that point, FIU called time out.
When the Panthers returned to the floor for Osaghae’s second attempt, they were called for a lane violation, giving the Roadrunners possession and a 77-75 lead.
Senior Byron Frohnen tried to inbound to Jhivvan Jackson. But the ball was deflected, and Lovett picked it up, giving the Panthers one last chance.
He turned and hit the shot off the glass, fading away, for the tie.
“Disappointed for our guys,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio voice, Andy Everett, on The Ticket 760. “You know, we had a chance to rebound the free throw and didn’t get that done. Then we just had to inbound it one more time and we win the game.
“We didn’t have a time out left. I know you’re supposed to always have a time out left. I’ve been kicking myself in some of these other games where people are making runs and I haven’t been using those time outs to stop the runs. Trying to get a little more aggressive, using ’em earlier, and now I’m kicking myself for not having one there.
“But even then, we’ve got to execute a little better … we just didn’t complete the play, and it came back to haunt us.”
FIU came out with energy in overtime, and UTSA couldn’t match it. The Panthers opened with five quick points in an 11-2 streak for an 88-79 lead.
The Panthers converted during the run with an Isaiah Banks stick back and three-pointers from Lovett and Cameron Corcoran.
Forward Devon Andrews finished with 26 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.
The Roadrunners entered the game seeking redemption after losing 79-64 on Thursday night at Florida Atlantic.
Jackson had a rough night in Boca Raton, hitting only 3 of 18 from the field. He bounced back against FIU with 30 points on 11 of 24 shooting from the field, including 5 of 15 from three. Jackson also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Contributions from the big men
UTSA junior Luka Barisic, in his first year with the Roadrunners, had a season-high 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Bior, a senior, also had some good moments with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Continuing with its conference schedule, UTSA is set to host Louisiana Tech next Thursday and Southern Miss on Saturday at the Convocation Center.
Louisiana Tech held the highest national rating among C-USA teams (65th) before its home victory Saturday night over Southern Miss.
The Bulldogs downed the Golden Eagles 78-50, improving their record to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference.