Contributed by: LA Tech Athletic Communications
MIAMI – There have been some painful end-of-game locker rooms for Louisiana Tech this season.
Arguably the most gut-wrenching one of them all came on Saturday night as FIU’s Brian Beard, Jr. hit two three-pointers in the final three seconds of the game to give the home Panthers a 71-68 win over the Bulldogs inside Ocean Bank Convocation Center.
LA Tech (14-10, 5-6 C-USA) was riding a four-game winning streak, two of those victories going the way of the Bulldogs in close games that went down to the wire.
However, FIU (11-13, 5-6 C-USA) completely defied its shooting percentages from three and from the foul line. The Panthers came in as the third worst three-point shooting team in the league and were the worst free-throw shooting team in all of Division I college basketball.
That was certainly not the case on Saturday. They went 16-of-20 from the foul line and hit nine of their 17 three-point field goal attempts. The two hit by Beard, Jr. also defied the statistics as he came into the contest as just a 24 percent three-point shooter.
“You have to tip your hat off to Brian Beard for making two tough shots,” head coach Eric Konkol said. “We go up three with 10 seconds left. If there were about five seconds left, I was interested in fouling and putting them at the free throw line.
“I thought we handled the dribble handoff well and he put up a desperation shot to tie the game. Then we did not execute well with under three seconds left to try to give us a shot to win.”
The Bulldogs built as much as an eight-point lead at 50-42, capped off by an offensive rebound and tip-pin by Jy’lan Washington, with 10:48 left to play in the game.
The Panthers slowly chipped away though, taking a one-point edge at 58-57 with 5:36 to play. It was their first lead in almost 14 minutes of action after LA Tech opened the second half on a 7-0 run to go back on top after trailing by one at halftime.
FIU still held a one-point advantage with less than 30 seconds to go. Washington and Oliver Powell came up big though from the foul line, connecting on all four attempts on one-and-one opportunities.
The final 10 seconds was a bad sequence though for LA Tech. The Panthers’ Beard was trying to hand the ball off, but the ‘Dogs denied the pass. He then jacked up an NBA-range three to tie the game at 68-68.
With 2.7 seconds left, Washington received a long pass from Amorie Archibald on the out-of-bounds play and he was whistled for being out of bounds.
Beard then hit the game-winning three from the top of the arc at the buzzer, handing the Bulldogs their sixth loss this season by four points or less.
“Lately, we have been on the other end of these close games,” Konkol said. “It got us tonight though. We’ve got a hurt group. This one is going to sting for a while, but we have got to be able to get home and regroup.”
There were a total of seven ties and 14 lead changes in the game.
LA Tech ended up shooting 44 percent from the field (25-57) and 27 percent from beyond the arc (6-22). Only two Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by Jacobi Boykins who registered 13. Archibald was the other, scoring 12 while adding seven assists and a career-high seven boards.
Washington did another terrific job coming off the bench, recording eight points and eight rebounds.
FIU shot a meager 39 percent from the field (23-59) for the game. Four Panthers registered double-digit points, led by Beard, Jr. who posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists.
LA Tech returns home for four straight games, starting on Thursday, Feb. 8 against the Charlotte 49ers. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center.