Richelieu Valery | Contributing Writer
For the Panthers, a win against Western Kentucky this Thursday would go down as smooth as a swig of Kentucky bourbon, as FIU looks to avenge their earlier season loss to the Hilltoppers.
After ending their Texas road trip with a win against UTSA, FIU wants to continue their good play against WKU and get closer to that .500 record.
The Panthers want to even the score against the Hilltoppers after dropping a game to them earlier this month at home. FIU is 8-4 at home this season, meaning they’ll want to use homecourt advantage to tie things up and go 1-1 with WKU on the season.
For the Hilltoppers, they’ll be looking to shake off this three-game losing streak against the panthers, who were the last team that they beat before dropping three straight.
WKU has played well on both ends of the floor this season, averaging 73.4 PPG while holding opponents to 69.2 PPG. Their shooting has been impressive, shooting 45% from the field and just under 40% from three. On defense, they’ve been holding opposing teams to a 40% field goal percentage.
The Hilltoppers are led by junior guard Dayvion McKnight. McKnight has been WKU’S star player this season leading the team in PPG (17.0), APG (4.2) and SPG (1.9). McKnight had a three-game stretch earlier this season where he scored 25 or more, showing that he can light it up at any given moment.
Unfortunately for WKU, they’ll be without the nation’s leading shot blocker 7-5 senior center Jamarion Sharp. Sharp leads the country with a total of 81 blocks and 4.3 blocks per game.
To add to this already big loss, something to monitor will be if WKU will be without their top 3-point shooter senior guard Luke Frampton. Frampton injured his knee just three minutes into the last game against Charlotte and was not able to return. This severely weakens WKU’s long-range game as Frampton poured in 2.5 threes a game and was shooting it at a high clip of 46% from deep.
FIU can take advantage of Sharp’s absence and have sophomore guard Denver Jones attack the paint to draw fouls. Just last game, Jones went 9-9 at the line against UTSA on his route to 27 points.
Jones has been the stud that the panthers have needed him to be, but the last time he went up against WKU, he was held to just nine points, making it only the second time this season he has been held under double digits. FIU will need Jones to be his usual self if they want to even the score against their opponents.
With 10 games remaining in the season, FIU is hoping that their last win serves as a spark plug for the team to potentially go on a run heading into conference play.