CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — This time, the only punches that Miami and FIU threw at one another were theoretical. And the Panthers nearly got a stunning knockout.
Matthew Cleveland scored 23 points, Bensley Joseph and Wooga Poplar each added 18 and No. 12 Miami rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to beat neighboring FIU 86-80 on Monday night.
Nigel Pack scored 17 points and Norchad Omier had 11 rebounds for the Hurricanes (3-0).
“Very proud of our guys for hanging in there,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “And very impressed with FIU.”
Anyone who was watching would likely have said the same, after a game with some wild ebbs and flows. Consider:
— Miami started the game on a 28-11 run over 10 minutes.
— FIU answered with a 42-13 run over the next 14 minutes.
— Miami immediately came back with a 19-0 run over the next four minutes.
The Panthers fell to 0-25 all-time against ranked opponents — but made the nine-mile drive back to their campus knowing they nearly changed that.
“Had we won tonight, it would have been glorious,” FIU coach Jeremy Ballard said. “But we weren’t going to be cutting nets down. We weren’t going to be getting any trophies. We weren’t going to be getting any invitations to the big dance. So right now, it’s all about growth. And as a coach, we definitely prefer to grow through winning and that’s certainly going to be our aim going forward.”
Arturo Dean scored 19 for FIU (0-3), while Dashon Gittens added 14 and Javaunte Hawkins had 11 for the Panthers — a 21 1/2-point underdog according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
But it wasn’t decided until just about the very end. George Pridgett Jr. made a 3-pointer with 1:49 left to get FIU within 80-76, only to see Poplar hit a 3 on the next Miami possession to help seal the win.
“Being able to battle back when a team is hot like that and weather the storm … it’s really good to see,” Cleveland said.
It was the first official meeting between the programs since 2008, in part because FIU and Miami refused to play each other in any sport for years as part of the fallout from the football brawl between the schools in 2006. The brawl — which had one player swinging a helmet, another swinging a crutch and more than a few kicking opponents on the ground, led to 31 players being suspended.
Over time, relationships between FIU and Miami were restored. The schools met in women’s basketball in four consecutive seasons from 2015 through 2018, Miami going 4-0 and winning by an average of 26.8 points. The baseball teams have faced each other annually since 2017, except for 2020 because of the pandemic. And most famously, the Panthers’ football team topped the Hurricanes in 2019.
“This game is a big deal,” Ballard said. “We want it to be a big deal. We would love to play this game every year.”
FIU: It was the second-closest game FIU played against a ranked opponent. The only one closer was an 85-81 loss to then-No. 25 Charleston on Feb. 13, 1997. Every other game against an AP Top 25 team had been decided by 10 or more points, and the average FIU margin of defeat is now 26 points in those matchups.
Miami: The 3-pointer saved the Hurricanes. Miami was 13 for 21 from beyond the arc, part of a night where the Hurricanes shot 58% from the field.
FIU: Visit Houston Christian on Wednesday.
Miami: Face Georgia at Nassau, Bahamas on Friday.
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