Panther Preview: FIU women’s basketball vs. Middle Tennessee

Sophomore guard Zaida Gonzalez (Left) for FIU and redshirt senior forward Kseniya Malashka (Right) for MTSU. Photos courtesy of MTSU and FIU Athletics.

Brian Olmo | Sports Director

The FIU women’s basketball team looks to bounce back into the win column in a tough matchup against the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The Panthers are coming off a close loss to the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers, 63-67, giving FIU a split 5-5 conference record. Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders are riding a massive 15-game winning streak. The team is as clean as stainless steel right now, with a perfect 10-0 record in conference play and an impressive 17-2 overall record.

Middle Tennessee anchors both the best offense and defense in Conference USA, averaging 74.5 points per game and holding opponents to 55 PPG. The team is third in 3-point field goal percentage (32.2 3PT%) and the paint has become a no-fly zone, with the Lady Raiders leading the conference in blocked shots as well (4.42 blocks per game).

Redshirt senior forward Kseniya Malashka has been on a tear lately, averaging 16.7 PPG and establishing herself as the fourth-highest scorer in the conference. The bucket-getter from Belarus is a highly efficient shooter who is great at creating space and getting open shots.

But Malashka isn’t the only standout on the team. Her two teammates, junior guard Savannah Wheeler and sophomore guard Jalynn Gregory, both average double-digit points (16.1 and 12.7 PPG). Wheeler facilitates the offense with her 3.5 assists per game and Gregory is the team’s markswoman, leading the conference with her 50 made 3-pointers.

It’s no question that the Panthers enter this one as underdogs. Upsetting this Middle Tennessee team will be a monumental task. But while it may seem like the Lady Raiders have every statistical advantage, there is a bright spot for FIU that they can use to keep this one close.

FIU is the better rebounding team, averaging 41.4 RPG to MTSU’s 37.7 RPG. They’ve also been dominant on the offensive glass, leading Conference USA with an astonishing 16.3 offensive boards. If the Panthers can force enough misses and capitalize off second-chance points, they can keep this game competitive.

The team is also going to have to rely heavily on the services of senior guard Kaliah Henderson. Henderson is the team’s leading scorer and has been averaging 13.8 PPG and 1.95 steals per game.

Still, the path to victory for FIU is too foggy to have any real confidence in the team pulling out a win. It’s definitely a possibility, but as of now, it’s looking like an improbability.

Catch the game at 2:00 P.M. ET on ESPN+.

FIU: 58
MTSU: 77

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