Women’s basketball looks to continue consistency against Utah State

Graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson driving to the basket to score a layup. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU women’s basketball team looks to keep their consistent play going against the Utah Tech Bisons on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Entering this matchup, the Panthers hold an 8-5 season record and won five out of their last six games. Most recently, they hosted three teams for the MTE Christmas Classic tournament.

After splitting their first two games of the tournament, FIU concluded the tournament against the Chicago State Cougars on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Vs. Chicago State:

From the opening tip, the Panthers established immediate control of the game and outscored the Cougars 24-9 in the first quarter. Graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson found an early rhythm and provided seven of the team’s 24-points.

However, the second quarter saw Chicago State playing suffocating defense and decisive offense. They forced FIU into their lowest scoring quarter of the game and outscored them 16-10.

Despite the Cougars’ second quarter efforts to make a comeback, they still trailed 34-25 at halftime.

Coming out of halftime, the Panthers looked to establish a more substantial lead and dominated the third quarter. Finding their offensive stride once again, they outscored their opponent 26-16 in the quarter.

Due to building a 60-41 lead to end the third quarter, FIU was able to manage getting slightly outscored in the fourth. 

While the fourth quarter was the most closely contested quarter of the game, the Panthers still walked away with a 73-55 victory. Chicago State outscored them 14-13 in the quarter, but their efforts came too little and too late.

Sophomore guard Angena Belloso led FIU in scoring and finished with 14-points in the game. Beyond her scoring ability, she made a two-way impact by contributing seven rebounds and two steals.

Outside of Belloso’s efforts, graduate student forward Courtney Prenger also added 13-points and seven rebounds. Proving to be an all-around team victory, 10 players scored at least once for the Panthers.

Closing out the MTE Christmas Classic with a win, they closed out the tournament with a 2-1 record, the strongest of the three participating teams. Following the tournament, the team received an extended period of time off due to the holiday season.

Vs. Utah Tech:

Returning to action on Dec. 30, FIU is hosting Utah Tech for their last game before the new year.

This season, the Bisons hold a 7-5 record and are coming off a 87-61 loss to the Oklahoma State Beavers on Dec. 20. In that game, they were outscored by 24-points in the first half alone and couldn’t rally any form of comeback.

Sophomore guard Maddie Warren poured in 18-points and connected on four of her seven 3-point attempts. Fifth year guard Breaunna Gillen also added 17-points and six rebounds, but their combined efforts didn’t amount to enough.

As a team, Utah Tech struggled on both ends of the floor against the Beavers. Offensively, they struggled to make shots throughout the night, as they shot 37.3% from the field on 59-total shot attempts.

On the defensive side of the ball, they allowed Oklahoma State to shoot a high percentage from both the field and 3-point distance. They finished with a 53.1% team field goal percentage and shot 41.7% from long distance.

Beyond the Bisons’ struggle to stop their opponent’s offense, they were also outrebounded 43-28. However, this rebounding performance was far below their season average, as they currently pull down 40.1-rebounds per game.

Many of their statistics from their performance against the Beavers are far below their season average. On average, Utah State scores 78.3-points per game and allows 68.9 to their opponent.

Supplementing their high scoring average, they also shoot 45.1% from the field and 37.4% from 3-point range this season. Defensively, they hold opponents to a 36.6% average field goal percentage and a 31.9% 3-point percentage.

If the Panthers wish to leave this matchup victorious, they must take high quality shots on offense and crash the backboard for defensive rebounds.

FIU averages 71.8-PPG and 41.3-RPG as a team this season, establishing an identity as a slower paced team. Due to them shooting 41.6% from the field and 31.3% from deep, they use the slower pace of play to their advantage.

Playing the game at their own pace can lead the Panthers to victory over the Bisons. Through defensive strategy and offensive execution, they can force their opponent to slow down to a pace they’re more comfortable playing at.

Looking to build off a consistent stretch of games, the FIU women’s basketball team is hosting the Utah State Bisons on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Tip off is set for 1 p.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.

Prediction:

Utah State: 75

FIU: 67

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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