Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer
The FIU women’s basketball team looks to continue their hot streak into conference play, as they take on Jacksonville State on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, in Miami, Florida.
Holding a 9-5 record this season, the Panthers are coming off a 68-62 victory over Utah Tech Trailblazers on Dec. 30, 2023. That matchup marked their final game of non-conference play before starting their Conference USA schedule.
Vs. Utah Tech:
To begin their night, FIU embarked on a 9-0 run within the initial three minutes of the game. Establishing an early sense of dominance over their opponent, they built a 21-14 lead by the end of the first quarter and never trailed at any point.
Graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson made a two-way contribution in the quarter, as she contributed six-points and a steal. Finishing with 10-points, seven rebounds and three assists by the end of the game, her highest scoring output came in the first quarter.
However, Utah Tech made the game more competitive in the second quarter and were able to chip away at the lead. A total of five players scored and managed to cut the Panthers’ lead down to 33-29 by half time.
Coming out of halftime, the Trailblazers kept their momentum from the second quarter and continued shooting efficiently. They posted a 52.9% field goal percentage and a 60% 3-point percentage in the third quarter.
Due to their high shooting percentages, they had their most potent offensive quarter of the game. Utah Tech outscored FIU 22-16 in the third quarter and stole their first lead of the game as a result.
Unable to recapture their momentum from earlier on, the Panthers struggled to keep up offensively until 5:20 remaining in the game. Trailing 58-53, FIU displayed resilience and initiated a late comeback fueled by the performances of multiple players.
Sophomore forward Mya Kone knocked down a crucial 3-pointer that cut the Trailblazers’ lead to two points with 5:05 left. Soon after, junior guard Tanajah Hayes drove into the paint and secured a game-tying layup.
With the score tied at 60-60, senior forward Maria Torres took charge of the team’s scoring from that point forward. On back-to-back offensive possessions, she made two highly contested layups and secured the Panthers a 64-61 lead.
FIU made a defensive stance to finish the game and thwarted any attempt of a comeback from the Trailblazers. Finishing off their fourth quarter comeback, they took a 68-62 victory.
Kone had a standout performance and finished the game with 19-points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-6 shooting from beyond-the-arc. She also contributed eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal, proving to be a key contributor for the Panthers.
Torres showcased her skills predominantly in the second half, tallying nine points in the third quarter and six points in the fourth. She reached a career-high in scoring and finished with 15-points on 7-8 shooting.
Her impact went beyond her offensive contributions, as she made a significant impact on the defensive end. Torres acted as FIU’s defensive anchor in the game, finishing with three blocks and two steals.
Vs. Jacksonville State:
Looking to carry forward the momentum from their victory, the Panthers are set to begin conference play against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Jan. 6, 2024. This game marks the beginning of a schedule that only consists of CUSA teams for the remainder of the season.
Currently standing with a 5-7 record this season, the Gamecocks find themselves tied with Sam Houston for fifth place in CUSA. Notably, they exhibit a preference for home games, as they boast a 4-1 record at home compared to a 1-6 record on the road.
JSU scores an average of 64.1 points per game and ranks sixth in the conference in scoring. However, they find success with 3-point shooting and average the second highest number of 3-pointers per game in the conference.
Over 12 games this season, they average 7.6 made 3-pointers per game, but it comes at the expense of efficiency. The Gamecocks are the second least efficient 3-point shooting team in the conference, as they make them at a 29.7% clip.
In terms of crashing the glass, they average 39-rebounds per game and have pulled down the third most in the conference. Looking to battle on the backboards, they are tied for first with FIU in defensive rebounds per game, securing an average of 26.9.
Notably, their upcoming matchup against FIU marks first meeting between the two teams since 2011, where the Panthers took home a 79-52 blowout victory.
If FIU wishes to continue their consistency into conference play, they must sustain their rebounding prowess, as they average 8.2-RPG more than their opponents. Forcing JSU into inefficient 3-pointers and preventing second chance opportunities will be their keys to victory.
Beginning their schedule against exclusively CUSA opponents, the FIU women’s basketball team is hosting the JSU Gamecocks on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024 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+.
Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme