Junior Malik Smith hit a career high eight 3-pointers to lead Florida International to a 69-54 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in a second-round Sun Belt Conference Tournament game Saturday night in Hot Springs, Ark.
FIU, the fourth seed, will play No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt semifinals. Middle Tennessee advanced by beating Louisiana-Lafeyette 81-66.
Smith finished with 25 points, four short of his career high, in making 8-of-10 field-goal attempts, all from beyond the 3-point arc.
He was one 3-pointer short of the conference tournament single-game record of nine set by Jacksonville's John Knox in 1997.
The Panthers (17-13), who advanced to Sunday evening's tourney semifinals, led for all but a brief period at the start of the game when UALR jumped in front 3-0. The Panthers responded with seven consecutive points to take the lead for good.
FIU led 34-26 at the half and maintained a double-digit advantage for much of the second half. The Panthers, who had more 3-point attempts (26) than 2-point tries (23), led by as many as 20 points late in the game.
The Trojans (17-15) struggled with their shooting, hitting only 30.6 percent overall (15 of 49) and making only three of their 18 3-point attempts. John Gillon led them in scoring with 16 points.
Both teams had problems with their ball-handling and wound up with 21 turnovers each.