Brian Olmo | Sports Director
FIU women’s basketball clashes with the UTEP Miners on Thursday, Feb. 23, at Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
In their last matchup against each other, the Panthers came away with the win by the skin of their teeth, 72-70. Sophomore guard Tanajah Hayes led the team to victory with 21 points and four steals.
The Miners come into this one as the fifth-best offense and third-best defense in Conference USA, putting up 69.2 points per game and holding opponents to only 63.5 PPG. FIU is right below UTEP as the sixth-best offense, but its defense is dead last in C-USA; the team gives up 69.4 PPG to opponents.
UTEP is so well-rounded as a team it’s hard to pinpoint any weaknesses. The team has four players averaging double-digit points, with their number one option being junior guard Jazion Jackson.
Jackson is averaging 12.1 PPG, 5.8 rebounds per game and is shooting an efficient 41.2% from the field. She’s also a terror on defense, leading her team in steals with an average of two a game.
FIU’s trio of Hayes, redshirt freshman Sifa Joyeuse and senior guard Kaliah Henderson are going to have to pull out all the stops for the Panthers to take this one. Each of them put up double-digit performances in their win over this same UTEP squad earlier this season, and they’ll have to do it again if they want a shot at winning.
If there is one area where the Panthers carry a significant advantage, it’s in their rebounding. FIU is first in offensive boards and seventh in defensive rebounds. Despite not having a top-15 rebounder, the Panthers being as good as they are on the glass shows that it’s a team effort. Senior center Hope Butera leads the way with 5.3 RPG.
But still, it’s a road game against one of the best defenses in the conference. Regardless of the team, that alone doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in FIU to pull out the win.
Follow Brian Olmo on Twitter at @Brian_Olmo11
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