Brian Olmo | Sports Director
Tumbleweeds roll by as two teams stand on opposite sides, anxious to open fire. As trigger fingers start to twitch, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” theme starts playing in the back.
It’s a good old fashioned wild west duel, as the FIU men’s basketball team looks to draw first in their final game of the regular season against the Rice Owls on Saturday, March 4, in Houston, Texas.
In their last game, the Panthers lost by the skin of their teeth to the LA Tech Bulldogs, 77-76. Sophomore guard Petar Krivokapic’s 25 points off of seven threes kept the team alive, but it wasn’t enough to halt the Bulldog’s onslaught, as they had five players finish with double digit points.
The Panthers are limping into this last game of the season with a broken leg in the form of a five-game losing streak. Not ideal.
Rice isn’t fairing much better, carrying their own three-game losing streak. Last game, the team was walloped in the territorial battle for the skies against the FAU Owls, 103-74.
Both of these teams are hoping to ditch the crutches and conclude the season on a high note ahead of the Conference USA Tournament.
Looking at the Owls, they are built like a glass cannon, with the third best offense in the conference offset by the second worst defense. Rice scores 77.2 points per game on opponents, but give up 75.8 PPG.
It’s easy to see why Rice has such a potent offense. They are excellent beyond the arc, averaging nine 3-pointers a game on 35.7% efficiency as a team. The Owls are also first in the conference in assists, averaging 15.3 a game.
Ball movement and pinpoint accuracy from three is what makes the Owls as dangerous of a team as they are.
Junior guard Quincy Olivari is the man of the hour for the Owls. He is currently the third-highest scorer in C-USA, putting up 19.2 PPG on 42.5% shooting from the field and 37.8% from deep.
Olivari’s game is best compared to that of James Harden; he is confident and aggressive, getting himself to the line often. He has attempted the third-most free throws in C-USA and hits them with an 80.4% accuracy.
His 3-point shot is legit, which leads to a lot of tight closeouts that Olivari blows by with ease due to his quickness, resulting in a soft floater off the glass or a tough finish through contact.
Stopping Olivari in his tracks is priority number one for the Panthers.
Junior forward Max Fielder also deserves his flowers, as he is the team’s third-highest scorer and leads the team in rebounds and assists per game, with 7.7 and 5.0 respectively.
Taking advantage of Rice’s lackluster defense is the golden ticket for FIU.
Krivokapic has been a tried and true offensive weapon for the Panthers, hitting clutch threes when the team has needed him most. Sophomore guard Denver Jones looked more like himself in his last game, but still trying to achieve better efficiency.
Playing on the road never favors the traveling team. FIU’s away record of 2-10 is a genuine concern and severely limits the team’s expectation of playing well in this one. It isn’t the only factor, but always something to take note of.
It’s going to be a high-scoring affair between these two teams, since neither pride themselves on their defense. Sit back and enjoy the shootout.
Follow Brian Olmo on Twitter at @Brian_Olmo11