Ruben Palacios/staff writer
The FIU women’s basketball team is back on cruise control after a two-game losing streak.
After consecutive conference losses to Middle Tennessee State University and University at Louisiana at Monroe that dropped them to 13-9 and 7-6 in the Sun Belt Conference, the Panthers find themselves on a three-game win streak and have improved to 16-9 (10-6 SBC).
After a home victory against rival Florida Atlantic University on Feb. 6, the Panthers hit the road and traveled to the University of North Texas and faced off against a familiar conference foe. FIU lost to North Texas in mid-January, but this time FIU got the best of the Mean Green and pulled out a 72-63 victory on Feb. 9.
The Panthers then traveled to Troy, Ala., where they picked up their third consecutive win with a 56-39 victory against the Trojans. The Panthers put on possibly their best defensive performance of the season in the win. Troy entered the contest averaging more than 72 points per game, but on this night FIU held them to nearly half their average.
“We are doing a really good job on the boards,” Head Coach Cindy Russo said. “And we are holding teams to a very low percentage and we have started to play really nice defense.”
Back in one piece
It is not a coincidence that the Panthers’ win streak started when seniors Finda Mansare and Diamond Ashmore returned to the squad after missing a number of games because of injury.
“I was concerned with getting my team back healthy,” Russo said. “And now we got our troops back.”
Mansare, a preseason Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, has shot 45 percent from the field since her return to the team and has provided help on the front line that became awfully thin when she and Ashmore went down.
Ashmore has been playing superbly since her return. In her three games back, Ashmore shot an astounding 66 percent from the field and has snatched an average of seven rebounds per game. Ashmore also led the team in blocks in all three games since her return.
Lonely At the Top
Junior Jerica Coley still remains the leading scorer in the nation as of Feb. 15. The All-American candidate is averaging 25.4 points per game, a mark that sits two points per game higher than her closest competitor.
Coley is on quite a hot streak, even by her standards. She has scored in double-figures in 23 consecutive games and in 81 of 91 career contests. Through the first 25 games of the season, Coley registered at least 20 points on 16 occasions.
Coley’s scoring is reaching monumental levels within the FIU ranks. With a 25 point performance against Troy on Feb. 14, it put her career point total at 1,931, a mark that ranks third all-time at FIU. Coley’s career scoring average of 21.2 points per game ranks second of all-time at FIU.
“It’s always good when you have Jerica Coley on your side,” Russo said. “She can win you some games.”
Coley is responsible for over more than 41 percent of FIU’s total offense this season, and is responsible for over 34 percent of FIU’s total points over her entire tenure at FIU.
The team has only three games left in the season and the next will be the last home game on Feb. 21 against the University of Little Rock Arkansas.