Sophomore Denver Jones scored eight of his team-high 27 points in the final 2:02 Saturday as the Florida International University Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak, downing the UTSA Roadrunners 77-72 at the Convocation Center.
Trailing by 18 points early in the second half, the Roadrunners put on a charge that brought them to within five with 1:40 remaining. Freshman guard DJ Richards hit a triple from the wing that trimmed the lead to 71-66.
From there, UTSA forced a missed shot and had a chance with a defensive rebound to set up for an opportunity that might cut the lead to three or even two points. FIU center Seth Pinkney had other ideas, however. He snared a key offensive rebound to stop the momentum.
Jones, subsequently, went to the free-throw line with 50.5 seconds left and hit both ends of a one-and-one, lifting the Panthers into a seven-point advantage. UTSA, in losing its sixth game in a row, couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.
In the big picture, the Panthers won the game with defense, limiting UTSA to 37.3 percent shooting. Specifically, they did a good job in holding Roadrunners guard John Buggs III to 0 for 10 from the field.
Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Richards, from the Houston area, finished with 18 points. He hit five of 11 from beyond the three-point arc. Another bright spot was forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, who returned from a wrist injury that has kept him out for a month. He hit two threes and scored 12 points in almost 20 minutes.
Point guard Japhet Medor, UTSA’s leading scorer, sat out for the second-straight game with a sprained foot.
FIU 9-11, 3-6
UTSA 7-14, 1-9
UTSA at North Texas, Jan. 26
Louisiana Tech at UTSA, Jan. 28
Following a freshman
Freshman Dashon Gittens came to the rescue for the FIU Panthers early in the second half. Just as the DJ Richards and the UTSA Roadrunners tarted to get back in the game, Richards hit a three-pointer and added a driving layup. At that point, the Panthers moved into a 58-47 lead with 12 minutes left in the game.
Richards, limited to one of six shooting in the first half, heated up for UTSA in the stretch by knocking down two triples.
Analyzing the first half
Employing fullcourt pressure on defense and shooting threes with regularity, the FIU Panthers have built a 43-31 lead on the UTSA Roadrunners. Petar Krivokapic has led the Panthers with 14 points on five of seven shooting from the floor. Krivokapic has knocked down four of FIU’s eight three-pointers.
The pressure has been trouble for the Roadrunners, who shot 30 percent from the field and turned it over seven times. Playing off the bench, Jacob Germany has led UTSA. The 6-foot-11 senior has 12 points and eight rebounds.
In the second half, the Roadrunners will need to get John Buggs III more involved. Buggs is scoreless on zero for six shooting. DJ Richards is also struggling, hitting only one of six. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, in his first game back from a wrist injury, has scored four points in eight minutes.
Shooting from downtown
Krivokapic, a sophomore from Montenegro in Europe, is shooting the ball well in the first half. He’s knocked down four three-pointers and has scored 14 points. He came in averaging 5.6 points per game.
The Panthers have hit seven triples so far to build a 38-26 lead on the UTSA Roadrunners.
Sparking a surge
Sparked by Christian Tucker and the return of Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, the UTSA Roadrunners have raced off on a 13-2 run.
Tucker ignited the streak with a couple of steals. Addo-Ankrah, who hasn’t played in more than a month, missed his first shot attempt from three. But then he made a 10-footer and then punctuated it by clinching his fists and letting out a scream. The run brought UTSA to within three of FIU at 20-17.
Christian Tucker is UTSA’s starting point guard for the second straight game. UTSA just tipped off against Florida International, with Tucker, John Buggs III, DJ Richards, Aleu Aleu and Massal Diouf in the starting lineup.
Pressing full court and playing up-tempo, the Panthers have jumped out to an 18-9 lead. Petar Krivokapic and Javaunte Hawkins have knocked down two three-pointers apiece in the early going.
Tucker is starting for injured UTSA leading scorer Japhet Medor. In a surprise, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah just checked into the game. Addo-Ankrah has sat out the last nine games with a wrist fracture. He hasn’t played since Dec. 18 against Bethune-Cookman.
Still searching for a winning formula, the UTSA Roadrunners will reach the halfway point in the Conference USA regular season today.
They’ll play the 10th game of a 20-game C-USA schedule at 3 p.m., hosting the Florida International University Panthers at the Convocation Center.
Both teams are riding losing streaks, with FIU having dropped four in a row and UTSA five straight. For the Roadrunners, they’ve had a tough time lately with injuries.
Japhet Medor, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah and Carlton Linguard, Jr. all sat out an 83-64 home loss to 24th-ranked Florida International on Thursday night and are expected to be out again today, as the Roadrunners close a three-game homestand.
Medor’s injury is the most recent. He twisted his right foot in practice Wednesday, sat out Thursday night against FAU and is in a walking boot today. Addo-Ankrah has been out nine games in a row with a wrist fracture. It’s possible he could be ready for UTSA’s next game, Jan. 26, at North Texas.
Both Medor and Addo-Ankrah are regarded as starters, and Medor is UTSA’s most explosive player, leading the team in both scoring and assists.
Linguard must be cleared by the NCAA on an academic issue in order to play this season. Otherwise he will have two years of eligibility left starting next season. He has just recently started to practice after suffering a concussion in mid-December.
The former Stevens High School standout is on the floor today, engaged in warm-ups.