The road to March: Panthers attempting to secure tournament spot

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 10: FIU forward Kiandre'a†Pound (1) boxes out in the first half as the University of Miami Hurricanes defeated the FIU Golden Panthers, 77-69, on November 10, 2017, at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics)

By Cristhian Plasencia/Asst. Sports Director


The women’s basketball team finds themselves battling it out with the bottom three teams of the conference, trying to punch their ticket into the 2018 Conference USA Basketball Championship.

FIU missed the tournament last season, as they finished 13th in the 2016-17 season with a 5-24 overall record and a 3-15 conference record.

After a close-loss against UTSA on the road, 69-66, FIU fell one position down to 13th place. As it stands, the Roadrunners are in 12th place, temporarily holding the final slot in Conference USA’s tournament bracket.

Within the first five games of conference play, FIU had a recorded of 3-2. The Panthers’ success was predicated on their defensive efforts, however, after beating third-place Rice (18-4) and sixth place Louisiana Tech (16-9) FIU suffered a seven-game losing streak.

“It all comes down to how we capitalize or how tight are we together defensively,” said Head Coach Tiara Malcom. “When someone does slips up and makes a mistake, I tell my players to cover for that split second, so that we don’t give up easy baskets,”

Sophomore guard Kayla Rogers played more minutes due to freshman guard Cabria Lee’s eye injury and a short-handed bench. To keep their legs fresh, Coach Malcom rotated her bench in recent games during the first half, to keep her players performing at a high level.

“At times we like to play small ball, with Lauryn [Snipes] playing the four-spot for us, not something we necessarily like to do, but in the concepts of our offense it’s beneficial,” said Malcom. “On the defensive end, it puts us in a tough spot. If we can have our two forwards out there and have KP [Kiandre’a Pound] guard a more versatile four-man, it plays to our strengths.”

Freshmen forward Callie Cavanaugh and Snipes displayed promising glimpses on both ends of the floor, but growth is inevitable in their performances.

“We saw a lot in how Lauryn can contribute throughout the season,” said Malcom. “Defensively, she’s been able to rebound the ball, mixed up a bit going to the rim and able to knock down outside jumpers. I think for our freshmen, it’s about being more consistent.”

Room for error is slim, as FIU looks to regain ground in efforts of qualifying for the C-USA Basketball Championship.

FIU’s final three games are on the road, the Panthers are winless on the road (0-9). They will travel to Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Feb. 17. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.