Defensive struggles doom Panthers in 74-60 loss

By: Brandon Wise/ Asst. Sports Director

When given a second chance to knock off the top team in the Sun Belt, the Panthers fell short yet again. This time, it was a much bigger loss than the previous one as the Panthers dropped its first conference game at home to Middle Tennessee 74-60.

Early on in the game, the Panthers were hot shooting from the floor, jumping out to a 12-4 lead with 14:25 to go.

After that quick run, Middle Tennessee went on a run of their own, scoring 14 straight points through a three-minute stint in the first half. Head Coach Cindy Russo was very frustrated with her team’s performance down the stretch.

“It was quite disappointing to see it play out the way it did,” Russo said. “Middle [Tennessee] stepped it up and we didn’t dig in and play. They just had their way and they beat us down.”

After battling for the end of the first half and much of the second, where FIU was within two points at 12:05 to go, the Blue Raiders pulled away, going on a 15-2 run.

The Panthers struggled down low in the paint, as the Blue Raiders were able to pull down rebounds and create second chance opportunities.

Finda Mansare shot lights out early on and only missed three shots all night, going 8-11 for 17 points. She was considerably frustrated after the game.

“The only way a post player can have a big game is when the offense is executing properly,” Mansare said. “From the get go, we were not able to get the ball down low.”

The nation’s second leading scorer, Jerica Coley, continued to put up points, going for 29 of FIU’s 60 points. She also had seven rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. The sophomore still knows that the defense needs improvement.

“We didn’t execute our offense the way we wanted too,” Coley said. “But I don’t think it was the offense that was the problem, we let them get a lot of offensive rebounds.”

Russo now must prepare her team for a two game road trip where they will head to Louisiana Lafayette on Jan. 14 and then to South Alabama on Jan. 18. She knows what needs to change for the Panthers to get back on track.

“We need to handle pressure better. We disintegrated offensively and then I guess it just bothered them so much that we lost it defensively,” Russo said. “Everything to lose a game, we did tonight. We could write a book on how to lose a game, because we did everything.”

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