Panther Preview: FIU basketball vs. UTEP

FIU forward Nick Guadarrama shooting a three (left) and UTEP guard Shamar Givance driving in. Photos courtesy of FIU and UTEP Athletics.

Richelieu Valery | Contributing Writer

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and nothing would be bigger than a win for the Panthers this Thursday after dropping three straight games in conference play.

FIU is looking to mine its way out of this losing streak against the University of Texas at El Paso on the road. With a win, they can find themselves one game under .500.

Historically, this matchup has not proven well for the Panthers; they’re 1-9 in their last 10 games against the Miners. But, with UTEP having to claw their way back from a 13-point deficit to edge out UNC Charlotte, FIU can look at their own win against the 49ers to create a game plan.

UTEP is coming into this game with a solid 10-8 record but is looking to change the pace after going 2-5 in their last seven games. To give the Miners credit, out of those five losses, the largest margin of defeat was only five points.

The Miners have heavily relied on their defense all season, holding opponents to 66 PPG and having them shoot 42 FG%. It’s easy to see why their defense is thriving when they have three players averaging a little over a steal a game, with junior forward Calvin Solomon leading the way with 2.2 SPG.

On the other side of the ball, UTEP struggles from deep, posting a disappointing 25% from three. They also have problems converting at the charity stripe, making just under 60% of their free throws.

For FIU, their defense has been inconsistent, allowing opponents to average 74 PPG, but they still do a decent job of holding opponents to a low 43 FG% this season. They’ll need to hone in defensively if they want to pull out the win.

On offense, sophomore guard Denver Jones has been the star for FIU, averaging just under 19 PPG. The 6’4 three-level scorer has been on a tear as of late, putting up 20 plus in five of his last seven games. FIU will need another one of his big performances to lock up a win and get back on the right track.

Of course, the Panthers can’t rely solely on Jones for all their buckets. The team’s chances also hinge on their second-leading scorer, freshman guard Arturo Dean, who’s averaging 12 PPG. Graduate forward Nick Guadarrama, who dropped 15 last game against North Texas, will be depended on once again to score and make plays for FIU.

With both teams eager to ramp up their play, it’s looking like this will be a hard-fought contest that can truly go either way.

FIU: 75
UTEP: 70

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