MIAMI -- FIU scored the final five points of the game to outlast ULM 76-73 in a Sun Belt shootout on Saturday evening inside U.S. Century Bank Arena.
The Warhawks (3-15, 2-10 SBC) shot 58 percent for the game -- including a blistering 70.4 percent in the second half -- and led by two points in the final minute before the Panthers (12-10, 7-6 SBC) rallied for the victory.
With ULM leading 73-71, the Panthers' Malik Smith converted a three-point play with 19 seconds remaining and Deric Hill came up with a timely steal and converted a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining to give FIU a three-point advantage. Junior Jayon James had his game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer come up short as ULM dropped its seventh straight contest.
The loss overshadowed a pair of monster performances for the Warhawks as junior Amos Olatayo finished with a career-high 30 points and eight rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. It marked the third straight game that Olatayo has scored 20-plus points and the sixth time this season. He becomes the first ULM player to score 30 points in a game since Tommie Sykes netted 32 against Union College on Jan. 4, 2011.
James finished just shy of a triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and a career-high 15 assists in 40 minutes. James' 15 assists were the second most in school history and the most since Larry Saulters recorded 19 assists against Mississippi College during the 1969-70 season. It was also the most assists by a player in the Sun Belt and tied for the sixth most in the NCAA this season.
Sophomore Trent Mackey added 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range for ULM. Mackey nailed four 3-pointers in the second half to help the Warhawks rally from an eight-point deficit.
Mackey converted a 3-pointer to tie the score at 71 and Olatayo raced down the floor for a transition layup to give the Warhawks a 73-71 advantage with just over a minute remaining. ULM forced a stop on the other end and got the ball back with a chance to put the game away, but sophomore Trey Lindsey stepped out of bounds with 33 seconds left to give the ball back to FIU.
Smith stepped up and drove the lane for a layup and a foul to give the Panthers the lead for good on FIU's next possession. Smith led four FIU players in double-digit scoring with 17 points. Tymel Murphy added 14 points, Jerome Frink chipped in 13 points and Marco Porcher Jimenez finished with 10 points for the Panthers.
ULM and FIU traded runs in the first half, but it was the Panthers' 12-3 spurt to close out the half that gave them a 35-29 edge at the break.
The Warhawks went up 47-46 on a 3-pointer by Mackey with 14:06 remaining before FIU used an 11-2 run to take 63-54 advantage -- its largest of the game -- with 8:16 to play. Four straight points by James and a jumper from Mackey cut the FIU lead to 63-60 and the two teams went back-and-forth in the final six minutes.
ULM returns home to face UALR on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
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