Florida International hangs on to beat UTSA, 79-76

UTSA sophomore guard George Willborn III fires up the home crowd down the stretch with a tomahawk dunk.

Trailing by a dozen points with 12:10 remaining Thursday night, the UTSA Roadrunners finally started to show some spunk against the Florida International Panthers.

They started pushing the pace. Attacking the basket. Putting some pressure on the visiting team.

Unfortunately for UTSA, it was not enough.

The Panthers held off the fast-closing Roadrunners 79-76 before 1,218 fans at the Convocation Center.

“We had some opportunities to win,” UTSA guard George Willborn III said. “(But) … we can’t wait until the last minute of the game to try to get things going.”

With the victory, FIU improved to 8-9 on the season and 2-2 in Conference USA. UTSA, in losing its second straight, fell to 9-9 and 2-3.

FIU’s Eric Lockett drives to the bucket early in the second half.

The Panthers’ backcourt dominated the game.

Point guard Brian Beard produced 20 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Trejon Jacob had 16 points and Eric Lockett 15.

When Jacob and Lockett weren’t hitting long three-pointers, they were dominating on the glass. The two combined for 15 rebounds.

For the most part, FIU held UTSA’s top scorers in check. At the half, Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace were a combined 1-for-11 from the field.

Jackson got going in the second half, finishing with a team-high 22 points. But Wallace struggled throughout, shooting 0-for-7 from the floor and 0-4 on three-pointers.

Willborn, making his first start, finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, a steal and a block.

UTSA forward Byron Frohnen gets to the hoop in the first half.

Florida International led, 47-37, at intermission on the strength of its long-distance accuracy.

FIU hit seven three-point shots, including three by Jacob.

UTSA, meanwhile, couldn’t get its offense out of neutral.

The Roadrunners shot 38.7 percent from the field and turned it over six times in falling behind by double digits at the break.

Coming up

UTSA hosts Florida Atlantic at 2 p.m. Saturday.