Ruben Palacios/staff writer
Junior Jerica Coley led all scorers with 33 points on 12 of 17 shooting from the field and she was perfect from the free throw line at seven for seven, as FIU defeated rival FAU 65-55 at the U.S. Century Bank Arena.
Senior Diamond Ashmore was the next leading scorer in the contest as she netted a season-high 16 points and fell just two rebounds shy of a double-double.
“There was ice water running through Diamond’s veins,” said Head Coach Cindy Russo. “That’s a senior going out and she wants something to happen here.”
Needless to say-this game between in-state rivals FIU and FAU was a big game. Not only was it a conference game, but the winner moved up in the conference standings.
“All games are critical from now on but especially this one against this team because we were neck and neck with them.” Russo said.
The FIU defense came out strong to start the game. They forced FAU to take tough contested jumpers and eventually raced out to a 10-2 lead.
Coley, who led the country in ppg when she entered the game, continued her dominance on the court in the first half. In the first 20 minutes of play, Coley tallied 24 of her team’s 36 points on eight of 11 shooting from the field and a perfect six of six from the free throw line.
The second half saw both teams trading baskets. Ashmore started the half strong, scoring 8 points in the first nine minutes. FAU’s Breana Turner kept them in it early in the second half with nine points of her own the first ten minutes of the second stanza.
FIU enforced their size the rest of the way and blew the game open to the point where they took a 59-42 lead with eight minutes left to play. At that point in the game, FIU held a rebounding advantage of 38 rebounds to 17 for FAU.
FIU put the game away thanks to the comebacks made by Ashmore and senior Finda Mansare who had both missed a number of games due to injury. The talented post players helped FIU dominate the post game. FIU won the rebounding margin by snatching down 44 rebounds and only allowing FAU 26 rebounds of their own. FIU also scored more points in the paint by a count of 26-24. FIU led by as many as 17 in the second half. FAU could not get the game within single digits after that and the game ended with FIU on top 65-55.
The win propels FIU to a 14-9 (8-6 SBC) record. FAU drops to 10-12 (7-7 SBC).
“We got our troops back,” Russo said. “You saw a little bit of the old FIU team tonight, we didn’t get caught up in making mistakes and we just played really hard.”
Coley played such a good game that afterward she received a special visit from an all-time FIU football great T.Y. Hilton. Hilton hugged Coley after the game and spoke to her about her performance.
“I heard you’re the leading scorer in the nation right now,” Hilton said.
“Yeah that’s me,” Coley said after she modestly shrugged away her accolades.
They wished each other luck in the future and promised to keep in touch.