No. 3 women’s basketball to take on no. 6 New Mexico State in the Conference USA Championships’ quarterfinals 

The FIU women's basketball team gathered around head coach Jesyka Burks-Wiley in a timeout huddle. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU women’s basketball team is traveling to Huntsville, Alabama to compete in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA Championships and face off with the New Mexico State Aggies on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

Entering the tournament, the Panthers bolster a 20-10 overall record and earned the third seed due to their 11-5 conference record. In their final game of the regular season, they faced off with their future playoff opponent and took a 65-56 loss to NMSU.


To begin the game, FIU struggled to find offensive consistency and struggled to take care of the ball. In the first quarter alone, they committed eight turnovers as a team and gave up a 16-7 lead by its conclusion.

After only scoring in single-figures over the entire opening quarter, the Panthers were revitalized in the second period. As a team, they shot 53.85% from the field and outscored the Aggies 18-15 in the quarter.

However, their statistically best quarter of the game wasn’t enough to chip away at the lead, as the score sat at 31-26 at halftime. 

Coming out of the break, it seemed as if NMSU took control of the game, as they dominated the first four minutes of the period. Junior guard Jalia Harding connected on a jumpshot to extend their lead to 12-points with 6:13 remaining.

Facing a 39-27 deficit, FIU was not deterred by their disadvantage on the scoreboard and used their defense to create offensive opportunities. Over the final six minutes of the third quarter, they only allowed the Aggies to score five points.

Ignited by their lockdown defense, the Panthers scored eight points off turnovers in the third quarter alone. After they cut the lead to one point, graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson made two free throws and gave them a 44-43 lead to close out the period.

Following a 10-0 scoring run by FIU, NMSU began the fourth quarter determined to reclaim the lead. Within the first 30-seconds, junior guard/forward Tylie Jones quickly scored on a layup to give her team a one point lead.

From that point forward, the Aggies never relinquished their efforts and held a lead for the remainder of the game. Completely dominating the fourth quarter, they shot 62.5% on their field goals and outscored their opponent 22-12.

Unable to carry their comeback effort through the finish-line, the Panthers took a 65-56 defeat in the finale to their regular season. The loss dropped their conference record to 11-5, which tied them with the Liberty Flames for second in the CUSA standings.

Junior point guard Tanajah Hayes led the team in scoring and finished with 18-points on 8-15 shooting from the field. Beyond her offensive contribution, she also made a defensive impact, as she collected two blocks and three steals.

Outside of Hayes, graduate student shooting guard Olivia Trice was FIU’s only other player to finish in double-digit scoring figures. Trice made all four of the team’s 3-pointers and finished with 12-points on 4-5 shooting from long distance.

Looking to return to form in the playoffs, the Panthers will have a rematch with NMSU in the quarterfinal round of the CUSA Championships.

CUSA Championships:

Freshly on the heels of a win, the Aggies enter the tournament with a 12-17 season record and hold the sixth seed. Their victory engaged them in a three-way tie with Western Kentucky and UTEP for sixth place in the conference standings, but they held the tiebreaker.

As a team, NMSU has a predominantly defensive identity, as they allow 60.9-points per game to opponents, which is the second fewest in CUSA. Mostly focused on preventing perimeter shots, they hold the lowest average opponent 3-point percentage in the conference.

Despite their ability to defend the perimeter, they rank in the bottom half of CUSA in other metrics such as blocks, steals, and opponent field-goal percentage. Although their defense has proven to stop opponents, there are still lapses in their scheme.

Their opponents’ low-scoring output could be attributed to the slow pace of play that their offense operates at. This season, they average 60-PPG, which is the second lowest scoring average in the conference.

Senior guard Molly Kaiser was the Aggies’ go-to scoring option throughout the season and finished with an average of 14.7-PPG. As the team’s primary offensive threat, she was named to the CUSA All-Conference First Team on Monday, March 11.

If FIU wishes to leave this matchup victorious and keep their championship hopes alive, they must return to playing their style of basketball. Playing with a consistent two-way effort across the entire game could be their route to a victory.

A return to form on the offensive side of the ball will be essential if the Panthers wish to make a deep playoff run. This season, they average 69.4-PPG as a team and hold the second highest scoring average in the conference.

Upon the regular season’s conclusion, six players received all-conference recognition in the end-of-year awards. 

Sophomore forward Mya Kone was named to CUSA’s All-Conference First Team and was named Sixth Player of the Year. During the regular season, she averaged 11.3-PPG, 7.9-rebounds per game, and made 19 of her 30-appearances off the bench.

Henderson and Hayes were both named to CUSA’s All-Conference Second Team following their individual seasons. Beyond acting as the team’s second leading scorer, Hayes also made a defensive impact and was named to CUSA’s All-Defensive Team.

Graduate student forward Courtney Prenger, senior forward Ajae Yoakum and senior forward Maria Torres were also all awarded with All-Conference Honorable Mention honors.  

Beyond the awards of individual players, as head coach Jesyka Burks-Wiley was honored as CUSA’s Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 20-10 record. This marks Burks-Wiley’s second Coach of the Year award after winning it in 2021.

As one of the most decorated teams this season in terms of season awards, the Panthers cannot afford to let their guards down in this matchup. In the season-finale, NMSU demonstrated their capability to defeat them through defensive execution.

Looking to make a deep playoff run, the FIU women’s basketball team is facing off with the NMSU Aggies in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA Championships on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

Tip off is set for 3 p.m. at Propst Arena in Huntsville, Alabama.


FIU: 68

NMSU: 62

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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