By Joshua S. Gildea
When the Florida International University Golden Panthers rolled into town Thursday, Dec. 7, many BYU men’s basketball players still had the Cougars’ recent road losses fresh on their minds.
In fact, after the first half of play against FIU, Mekeli Wesley and Terrell Lyday had only seven points between them.
Wesley and Lyday ended the 78-50 win over the Golden Panthers with 16 points apiece.
“I don’t think we played with much intensity in the first half,” Wesley said. “We were sluggish.”
But it didn’t hold the Cougars down.
BYU was leading the Golden Panthers at halftime thanks to the help of freshman guard Daniel Bobik.
Bobik reeled off a series of three 3-pointers in less than two minutes to carry the Cougars into the locker room with a 30-23 lead.
Enter an upset BYU head coach Steve Cleveland.
“In the first half, I was probably as upset at a team as I have been since I’ve been here,” Cleveland said.
Whatever Cleveland said in the locker room it must have worked.
The Cougars came back and played a second half that didn’t even resemble the first half.
BYU, as a team, shot 56 percent on the night and held its opponent to 41 percent from the field.
Lyday played especially well defensively during the Cougar win.
“This is the best effort Terrell has given us all year defensively,” Cleveland said.
Lyday, who was matched up against Carlos Arroyo, held the FIU standout to only 30 percent shooting and just 14 points.
Arroyo leads the Sun Belt Conference, averaging almost 22 ppg.
“They probably thought they could come in here and play with us, and they played hard but it wasn’t enough,” Lyday said.
Another major difference for the Cougars was rebounds.
BYU out-boarded the Golden Panthers 33-18 and nearly tripled the FIU offensive rebounding totals.
The Golden Panthers, who are playing with only an eight-man roster, struggled physically the whole night.
“They just kept running fresh bodies in and wearing us down,” said Donnie Marsh, head coach of FIU.
BYU came into tonight’s game with a losing record on the line, but managed to stay just out of harms way and move to 3-2 on the season.
After the short stint at home, the Cougars now head to Houston, Texas to play Rice University.
“We will go into this game as the underdog but I am excited to go there and compete and play,” Cleveland said.