Panthers will enter conference play without Wright

Photo by Rebecca Villafane

By Malcolm Shields/ Staff Writer

Now that the 12-game non-conference portion of the schedule is complete, the Panthers will enter Sun Belt Conference play on the road on Dec. 29 against Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro.

It appears that the Panthers (3-9) will be without its leading scorer DeJuan Wright, who has been out of the starting lineup for FIU since he sustained an apparent leg injury in the first half against Maryland on Dec. 14. Without him in the lineup, the team has struggled offensively.

Photo by Rebecca Villafane

In the first 10 games in which Wright appeared, the Golden Panthers averaged 61.8 points per game. In the past two games without him in the lineup FIU has averaged just over 46 points per game.

“When your up eight to 10 points in the game, he finds a way to give you that extra spark. That extra energy,” Head Coach Isiah Thomas said of Wright. When asked when he expected Wright and his 15.9 points per game back in the starting lineup, Thomas stated, “I’m not counting on it anytime soon.”

If the Panthers are going to be without Wright for any lengthy period of time, they will need a consistent overall effort from senior guard Jeremy Allen and Phil Taylor. Allen and Taylor have together only scored in double-figures in the same game five times out of their 12 games this season.

“As a captain, I feel like it is my job to get us together,” Allen said. “Somehow we have to limit [turnovers] and win games. We have to go into conference with a new attitude and win games.”

The promising aspect for the Panthers is the added depth in the frontcourt with the additions of Brandon Moore and freshman Joey De La Rosa to the roster over the past two weeks.

FIU was thin up front early in the season with Dominique Ferguson and Gilles Dierickx logging the majority of minutes at the power forward and center positions. It is expected that Moore and De La Rosa will be in the frontcourt rotation for the Golden Panthers when they face Middle Tennessee.

Middle Tennessee enters the matchup against FIU with an 11-2 record and two impressive road victories against Ole Miss and UCLA. The Blue Raiders are led offensively by their two forwards LaRon Dendy and his 14.5 points per game and JT Sulton, who averages 11.9 points per game. Guard Marcos Knight provides solid play in the backcourt for the Blue Raiders. He is second in scoring with 13.2 points per game and shoots over 50 percent from the field.

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