Ruben Palacios/Staff Writer
Junior Jerica Coley led all scorers with 38 points on 14 of 22 shooting from the field as the Panthers blew out Western Kentucky 72-53 at the U.S. Century Bank Arena.
The Panthers improved to 17-9 (11-6 SBC) while the Hilltoppers dropped to 18-7 (11-5 SBC).
In the nationally televised rematch between the two conference foes, the Hilltoppers did not miss a shot until the 15 minute mark of the first half. They quickly raced out to a 15-6 lead over the Panthers. The Panthers withstood the run and responded with one of their own. They cut the lead down to a single point after forcing 8 consecutive WKU misses. The Panthers trailed 35-30 at the half.
Junior Jerica Coley led the way for the Panthers with a strong effort in the opening period. The All-American candidate netted 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field and a perfect 4 of 4 from the free throw line. Alexis Govan powered the strong half for the Hilltoppers; she finished the first stanza with 9 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the field.
The second half also started off with a run, but, this time, the run was by the Panthers. Coley scored 11 points in the first 6 minutes of the half and propelled the Panthers to a 45-41 lead. As a team, the Panthers started the half on a 33-6 run by clamping down on the defensive side and forcing WKU to take bad shots.
“They dictated to us for most of the first half,” said Head Coach Cindy Russo. “But we finally settled down and did a fine job coming back.”
In the second half, the Panthers put together what might have been their best defensive half of the year. They held WKU to 16 percent shooting from the field on 4 of 24 shots.
“They were ready to play and they just took it right to us,” Russo said. “But we rebounded and came back. It’s nice to be able to come back from a game like that.”
Coley had a game only an All-American candidate could. She took over the contest in the second half and propelled her team to victory while almost dropping 40 points. Junior Marita Davydova also chipped in with an outstanding performance. Davydova recorded yet another double-double with 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.