Many players getting increased playing time

For FIU, many players have seen increased roles and increased playing time so far. After losing three starters to graduation last season and the addition of four new freshmen FIU finds itself in a rotation with many players lacking consistent playing experience.

So far this season, senior guard Jerica Coley and junior guard Zsofia Labady are the only players this season playing that appeared in the bulk of the team’s games last season.

Senior center Marita Davydova is the only other to appear in 30 games last year but has not suited up all season and her status is until uncertain. Davydova was out against Florida Gulf Coast University in what Head Coach Cindy Russo called a coach’s decision. The senior stayed home as the team hit the road for their three-game road stretch.

Junior forward Arielle Durant played in 29 games last season has appeared in three of four games for the Panthers as well.

While those three and four if Davydova returns expected to receive the same kind of playing time as last season; players like sophomore guard Taylor Shade, junior forward Brianna Wright and junior forward Tynia McKinzie are seeing an increase in playing time despite last season having limited minutes. Sophomore guard Katrina Epnere went from playing 71 minutes last season in 11 games to starting in two games, appearing in three and totaling 53 minutes this season.

It is perhaps an obstacle for FIU to start the season as they have been trying to get in sync on the offensive end.  The process of figuring out the offense is showing as FIU is averaging 15 turnovers a game this season.  After committing 19 turnovers in the opener against FGCU in which Russo attributed it to being lack of playing experience.

Players such as Wright, who only appeared in three games last season has started every game this season and already has two games in double figures.  FIU is hoping that the junior can produce down in the low post and be active on the boards.

Shade didn’t see the court much last season and is expected by Russo to provide more scoring and dribble penetration to take some of the load off of Coley.

McKinzie is another that only saw limited action last season but this season has made an appearance in all four games.

In addition, in all four games this season, Russo has played two freshmen in Karrah Johnson and Janka Hegedus with Hegedus being placed in the starting line-up in their game against Harvard.

As the season moves forward, many players in the regular rotation were not so much last year and are expected to step up this season. Of the top six players leading in minutes played this season, only two of them saw action regularly last season which are Coley and Labady.

FIU Hosts Thanksgiving Classic

After dropping their fourth straight contest to start the season with an 89-69 loss to Boston College, the Panthers look ahead to the FIU Thanksgiving Classic where they will host Valparaiso University on Friday, Nov. 29.

Last year the Panthers split their contest in the Thanksgiving Classic, defeating the University of  Iowa 66-65 before dropping a 76-69 decision to Louisiana State University. Both teams are seeking their first win of the season with FIU standing at 0-4 and Valparaiso sitting at 0-5.

FIU will look to sharpen their perimeter defense after allowing Boston College to shoot over 60 percent from three-point land allowing 12-19 for the game. Coley will look to continue her solid play after posting over 20 points the last three games including 36 against Boston College.  Wright will look to continue her production lately, in two of the last three games she was one rebound shy of recording a double-double. For Valparaiso, the Crusaders are coming off an 84-78 loss to Tennessee Tech University on Sunday Nov. 24. The Crusaders are led by sophomore guard Abby Dean averaging 11.0 points per game and is coming off a career high of 17 points against Tennessee Tech.

The women’s basketball team was unavailable for comment at the time of press.

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