Women’s basketball looks to retool following postseason elimination

Graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson attempting a contested layup. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU women’s basketball team’s season came to its’ conclusion in the second round of the Postseason WNIT, where they took a 92-62 loss to the Troy Trojans on March 25, 2024.

After a historic regular season, the Panthers struggled to carry their momentum into the postseason. Following their elimination, they finished their 2024 campaign with a 21-12 overall record and a 11-5 record against conference opponents.

Playoff struggles:

Although they bolstered the program’s strongest conference record since the 2011-2012 season, FIU was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the CUSA Championships. They entered the tournament as the third seed and took a 63-58 loss to the sixth-seeded New Mexico State Aggies.

Despite their immediate exit from the conference playoffs, their season was still alive, as they qualified for the Postseason WNIT. In their first round matchup on March 21, they took on the Stetson Hatters and claimed a 60-47 victory.

In that game, the Panthers displayed their defensive intensity and held their opponent to a 31% field goal percentage. Due to their suffocating defense, they were able to withstand the Hatters collecting nine steals and forcing 23 turnovers.

Junior point guard Tanajah Hayes finished with a game-high 17 points and connected on five of her 10 field goal attempts. Outside of her ability to score the ball, she made an all-around impact, as she also collected eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Beyond Hayes’ contributions, graduate student guard Kaliah Henderson and sophomore forward Mya Kone each finished with 11 points. Through multiple double-digit scoring efforts and defensive intensity, FIU advanced to the second round of the tournament.

However, their next matchup against Troy proved to be their final game of the season, as they suffered a 92-62 loss. 

To begin the game, it seemed as if the Panthers would be able to match their opponent’s scoring, as they only trailed 25-22 after the first quarter. Their offensive game plan was to attack the interior, as they outscored the Trojans 16-12 in the painted area.

Once the second quarter began, Troy began to take control of the game and showed their intensity on both ends of the court. They limited FIU to only 12 points in the quarter and carved out a nine point advantage by halftime.

Coming out of the break, the Panthers couldn’t create enough offensive production to rally from behind. In the third quarter, they shot 18.18% from the field and were only able to score seven points as a result.

By the end of the period, the Trojans carved out a 29 point lead and were able to maintain a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game. Able to close out the game, they took a 92-62 win and eliminated FIU from the Postseason WNIT.

Graduate student forward Courtney Prenger finished with a team-high 22 points and made nine of her 16 field goal attempts. She was the only player on the team that shot over 50% from the field on more than one shot attempt.

With FIU’s season coming to an abrupt ending, the 2024 offseason holds many questions for the team’s identity going forward.

Next season and beyond:

Entering next season, the Panthers will need to supplement the scoring of multiple players who will depart in the offseason. This season marked both Henderson’s and Prenger’s final year with the team, as they have used up their NCAA eligibility.

Henderson, the 5-9 combo guard, joined the team in the 2022-2023 offseason and made an immediate impact upon her arrival. In her first year, averaged 15.7 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game and led the team in scoring.

Following a breakout season in 2022-2023, a new roster composition for 2023-2024 called for a different role in FIU’s offense. This season, she averaged 9.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG and committed 26 fewer turnovers than the year prior.

Prenger, the 6-1 forward, played her first season with the team after transferring from Xavier in the 2023-2034 offseason. After starting in all but one of her 33 appearances, she finished the season with averages of 9.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG.

If the Panthers wish to keep their momentum alive from this season, they must find a way to supplement the production of two full time starters. Their depth may provide them with an outlet to replace their lost production.

After spending her freshman season at James Madison, Kone transferred to FIU in the 2023-2024 offseason. Throughout the entire regular season, she acted as one of the team’s primary offensive options while coming off the bench.

Only starting in 11 out of her 33 games played, Kone averaged 11.4 PPG and led the team in scoring. Beyond her scoring capabilities, she also led the team in rebounding and averaged 8.1 rebounds per game.

By moving Kone into the starting lineup next season, the Panthers have the opportunity to supplement some of the frontcourt production from Prenger’s departure. Her scoring ability also provides the team with a consistent offensive option, as she thrived as the team’s lead scorer.

Looking to retool in the offseason, the FIU women’s basketball team’s 2023-2024 campaign came to a close in the second round of the Postseason WNIT.

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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