Will Duval | Sports Director
The FIU women’s basketball looks to extend their winning streak to eight games and are set to face off with the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.
Entering this game, the Panthers bolster a 13-5 record and are coming off a 70-59 victory over the Liberty Flames on Thursday, Jan. 18. In that game, their bench provided a substantial contribution which resulted in 35-points.
To start the game, both teams were neck and neck in terms of offensive production. By the end of the first quarter, the Flames held a one point lead, with the score at 15-14.
Once the second quarter began, FIU woke up on both sides of the court and had their highest scoring period of the game. Making a significant defensive stance, they limited Liberty to single-digit scoring and outscored them 21-8 in the quarter.
At halftime, the Panthers held a 35-23 lead and never looked back after that point. Despite getting outscored by five points in the third quarter, their 12-point lead proved to be insurmountable for their opponent.
After taking control of the game in its early stages, FIU took a 70-59 win and claimed their seventh win in a row.
Sophomore forward Mya Kone led the way and finished with a team-high 14-points. Beyond shooting the ball efficiently, she made a two-way impact, as she also collected nine rebounds and three steals.
Junior point guard Tanajah Hayes also made her presence felt and finished with 13-points. Both Kone and Hayes combined for 27 of the team’s 35-bench points in the game.
While able to leave the matchup victorious, the Panthers struggled to make 3-point shots on a consistent basis. On the night, they only made four of their 20-total 3-point attempts.
Where they differentiated themselves was at the free-throw line, as they shot 20-29 in the game. Liberty only shot 20-free throws in comparison, proving FIU to be the more physically imposing team.
Through a gritty team performance, the team was able to compensate for being slightly outshot from the perimeter. If they wish to extend their win streak further, they must continue to play the same brand of basketball.
Vs. Western Kentucky:
Coming into this game, the Lady Toppers hold a 13-7 record following a 66-65 victory over the UTEP Miners on Saturday, Jan. 20. In that game, they managed to overcome a nearly 20% differential in field goal percentage, as they struggled to make shots all night.
As a team, WKU shot 32.3% from the field and 28.2% from 3-point distance. On the opposing side, the Miners shot 52.1% from the field and 30.8% from long distance.
Despite the difference in efficiency, the Lady Toppers both took and made more shots than their opponent. They made 11 of their 39-3-point attempts, which stymied their opponent’s four 3-pointers.
The difference in shot volume is explained by the result of the turnover battle.
WKU finished with 11-steals as a team and forced their UTEP into 22-turnovers. They also only committed 10-turnovers themselves and maintained ball security throughout the entire night.
Senior guard Destiny Salary led all scorers and finished with 25-points on the night. Her efficiency provided the team an offensive presence to lean on, as she shot 9-18 from the field and 4-8 from 3-point distance.
Besides Salary’s contributions, sophomore guard Acacia Hayes also added 19-points and made all six of her free throws. Both players were the team’s sole double-digit scorers in the game and shouldered a great portion of the offensive load.
If FIU wishes to leave this game victorious and extend their winning streak to eight games, they must take care of the ball.
Half of the Miners’ turnovers were self-imposed, as there were still 11-turnovers unaccounted for after the steals. Outside of the turnovers, they shot the ball with relative efficiency, implying that the Lady Toppers’ defense struggles to close out on shots.
Through both ball security and shooting efficiency, the Panthers have a chance to leave this game with a win. Playing sound defense will also be necessary, as WKU takes a high volume of shots and has the potential to heat up.
Looking to carry their momentum into their next game, the FIU women’s basketball team is hosting the WKU Lady Toppers on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Miami, Florida.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.
Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40