TULSA, Okla. (AP) -Three games into his college coaching career, Isiah Thomas was already asking for mercy.
Midway through the second half of Florida International's 81-49 loss at Tulsa on Sunday, Thomas motioned toward his counterpart as if to ask when he'd take his starters out.
A few minutes later, he got vocal with his request, shouting a few words in the direction of Golden Hurricane coach Doug Wojcik.
At that point, FIU (0-3) was down 63-25 with 8:59 to play after being outscored 27-5 to start the second half.
``It's a 40-minute game. If you want the truth of it, go back to the (North) Carolina game Monday night, when Carolina was pressing them with 3 minutes left,' Wojcik said, referring to FIU's 88-72 loss at North Carolina. ``I don't press, and I don't embarrass anybody. But it's a 40-minute game, and I'm in this game to get better.
``I've never seen anything like that. It was very bizarre.'
Wojcik, who was putting leading scorer Ben Uzoh back into the game, looked back at Thomas and shrugged his shoulders. He pulled 7-footer Jerome Jordan shortly thereafter and Uzoh with more than 5 minutes remaining. He had emptied his entire bench with 3 minutes left.
Wojcik explained that he had only eight scholarship players available, with Glenn Andrews out with a knee injury and Bishop Wheatley serving a four-game suspension. Two other players are sitting out under NCAA transfer rules, and Wojcik is redshirting another.
``There's 10 minutes left in the game and, to be honest with you, I only have so many guys,' Wojcik said.
Thomas, saying his team had a flight to catch, took only three questions in his postgame news conference - and he dodged the one asking about his interaction with Wojcik.
``I just thought that, again, this is a very good basketball team. We weren't as good as we would have liked to have been, and they were really good,' Thomas said before heading toward the door.
On his way out, he added: ``By the way, I'd like to invite them back to play us next year. I hope he accepts. Good luck.'
Uzoh scored 20 points and Justin Hurtt added 16 to lead Tulsa (2-0). Marvin Roberts led FIU with 18 points.
Thomas' Golden Panthers, playing without starting forward Nikola Gacesa, came out ice cold and never put up much of a fight against a Tulsa team picked as the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.
FIU made only two of its first 13 shots to fall behind 17-5, with Hurtt providing 10 of Tulsa's first 17 points. It didn't get much better after that.
Thomas' team connected on just four of its first 30 shots before putting together a late 7-0 run just to cut the deficit to 36-20 at halftime.
Another extended drought followed in the second half, with Tulsa opening on a 27-5 run to go up 63-25 as FIU missed 16 of its first 17 shots. By then, FIU had made only 8 of 51 shots.
That's when Thomas shouted at Wojcik.
``Their defense was good and our offense was really bad. We couldn't make a shot. We've been out on the road here for a while now, and I thought it showed,' said Thomas, who will make his home debut Tuesday against Florida Memorial. ``We were impatient. We had good looks, but we just couldn't make a shot.
``Their length definitely bothered us. I thought we got to the rim early in the game, but the shot-blocking ability of Jordan and the other guys, we were just outmanned and outsized at every position.'
Florida International finally put together some offense late but still ended up shooting just 23 percent. Tulsa had a 54-31 edge on the boards.
Thomas didn't encounter the type of jeers he'd gotten in his first two games as coach, visits to North Carolina and then Monmouth - in New Jersey, not far from where his coaching and management decisions guided the NBA's New York Knicks into a rut.
Tulsa's crowd gave him a friendly round of applause when his name was called during pregame introductions, and one fan even wore a blue Detroit Pistons T-shirt with Thomas' name and number on the back.
Thomas has his work cut out in turning around Florida International, a program that's coming off nine consecutive losing seasons and brought back only five letterwinners from last season's 13-20 team - including two who are hurt.
His squad will add Martavis Key, a transfer from Temple, next month and just signed a key recruit who had originally committed to Kentucky as part of Thomas' first recruiting class.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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