By: D’Joumbarey Moreau / Staff Writer
Cindy Russo should have preached putting the best foot forward. This game was a tale of two halves. As FIU started the game sloppily, Florida Gulf Coast University did not and took advantage of the Panthers slow start.
This proved to be crucial as the Eagles emerged victorious in a 80-72 victory inside of the U.S. Century Bank Arena. While the Eagles came out on top, the Panthers scratched and clawed most of the game. They continued with their efforts in a game where they saw themselves down at one point by 24 points, and then cutting the deficit to 40-29 at halftime.
As FIU came out of the first half, they began playing in the same sloppy trend early on. Due to the lack of production from the starters, coach Russo used her bench to her advantage, which contributed 41 points. Senior Fanni Hutlassa came off the bench and scored 22 points to lead the team.
The tweener forward contributed with her offensive rebounds by converting and making a couple of one baskets to help cut the lead. Her tenacity helped fuel a late game run to propel the Panthers to play better. Sophomore Jerica Coley, who was having trouble with her shooting, still found a way to leave her imprint on the game.
She got aggressive and went to the free throw line, chipping in with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. A couple of which found open shooters, such as Freshman Kamika Idom, who knocked down all of her four three-point attempts, finishing the game with 19 points off the bench.
“We wanted to make sure we got the ball to our post so that the defense could get sucked in and we can find open people,” said Coley.
One of the key factors in this game was the lack of communication. Defensively, the Panthers were not speaking enough. As FGCU began running a number of set plays for their shooters, FIU could not overcome it.
“We need to build our team defense, help sides, rotations and our communication,” said Hutlassa.
The Eagles hit 14 three’s and the Panthers had no answer for running them off the line. Too many people were getting open from ball screens and set screens. Florida Gulf Coast took advantage of the bigger lineup that the Panthers used throughout the night. They ran plays and flex cuts for their players to get open and used the bigs of FIU against them. The Panthers did not go to the low post enough to use their height to their advantage.
“We need to be much more aware of everything that is going on offense,” said Hutlassa.
As the Panthers recoup from this loss, they are looking forward with positivity.
“One good thing is that we came back and didn’t give up. We need to play this hard for 40 minutes,” said Coley.
They will face The University of Texas at San Antonio on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.