Richelieu Valery | Contributing Writer
Saturday at 7:00 p.m. the Panthers face Rice University, ending a short two-game home stretch at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center.
The Owls are flying in from Texas and hope that this Miami weather will heat up their cold play after not being able to grab a lone win in their last four games.
The Owls are coming into the game with a strong 15-9 record but with their recent play, could find themselves falling down the C-USA standings.
In the Owls’ last 10 games, they’ve gone 4-6, situating them at 6th in the standings right behind FIU. They have their below-average conference gameplay to thank for this, with a 6-7 record.
They’re second in the conference at scoring, averaging an outstanding 78.5 PPG. But on the other side of the ball, they’re second to last in points allowed, letting opponents have their way against them averaging 74 PPG. Their 4.5 margin does not leave any room for error against an FIU team committing an average of 16.6 turnovers a game.
The Owls surely have been a powerhouse on the offensive side of the game this season with four players averaging over 10 points per game.
Junior Guard Quincy Olivari and Junior Guard Travis Evee lead them. These two are an explosive duo that can put the ball in the bucket at any moment, averaging 19.2 (Olivari) and 15.6 (Evee) PPG. Olivari has been outstanding this season: his play has earned him C-USA player of the week twice.
Even with the strong play of the Owls’ backcourt, FIU will need to focus on Junior Forward Max Fiedler.
Fiedler is by far the best player on the team: their Swiss army knife, their do-it-all player. Fiedler averages 11.2 PPG, 8.1 Rebs and 5 assists a game. Fiedler, 6’11”, leads the conference in assists and is second in rebounds, with the same feel for the game as NBA superstar Nikola Jokic.
For FIU, this matchup against Rice is in their favor. In their 11 games against the Owls, the Panthers lead the series 6-4, 4-1 at home. They’ll need to be all hands in to pull out a win.
The Panthers are coming off a 66-62 win against Louisiana Tech. Sophomore Guard Denver Jones had himself a game with a game-high of 21 points.
Jones can light it up on any given night, as he has proven all season to be the most reliable scorer on the team. Basketball is a team game though, and the Panthers need more of a scoring output than just Jones. That’s what they had against LA Tech: three other players add in 10+ points.
For the Panthers, offense is the least of their worries going against the Owls. They’ll need to continue their stout defensive play against the number two offense in the conference. In the Panthers’ last five games, they’ve held opponents to 67 PPG (which is 6 points under their season allowance of points).
Freshman Guard Arturo Dean and Denver Jones will need to be able to slow down the Owls; backcourt duo and pressure them into turning over the ball. Dean and Jones are both in the top 5 in the conference in steals a game at a respectable 2.6 (Dean) and 2.0 (Jones).
If the Panthers can generate points off turnovers as they did in their last game (24), they will be in for a smooth ride against the Owls.