FIU women’s basketball fall to Blue Raiders in semi-finals

Ruben Palacios/staff writer

The women’s basketball team needed another upset in order to make it to the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, but they could not seal the deal against Middle Tennessee.

Senior Finda Mansare and junior Jerica Coley combined for 44 points, but FIU came up short, falling to the top-seeded blue Raiders, 68-59. With the loss, the Panthers fall to 19-12, while the Blue Raiders improve to 24-7.

The opening stanza was quite impressive for the Panthers; they went into the break with a 30-24 advantage. The FIU defense held MT to under 40 percent shooting from the field and held a rebounding margin of 10 rebounds in the opening period.

“Different people stepped up,” Coley said. “Finda did really good, we had some good defense in the first half.”

Mansare opened up the second-half with back-to-back three-pointers, giving her squad its largest lead of the night at 10 points. MT countered and went on a run, taking the lead with eight minutes remaining in the game; the Blue Raiders would not relinquish the lead again.

“What we were doing in the beginning of the game, we didn’t do it at the end,” Head Coach Cindy Russo said.

Mansare, the longest tenured Panther, rightfully saved her best performance of the year for last. She netted a season-high 22 points on 9 of 18 shooting from the field. Coley, though, needed 27 shots to register her 22 points as the Blue Raiders effectively shut down the two-time conference Player of the Year.

Ebony Rowe and Kortni Jones led the way for MT. Rowe registered 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the field, while also snatching 10 rebounds. Jones led the Blue Raiders in scoring with 26 points on 7 of 14 shooting from the field. Jones also dished out a game-high eight assists and was a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line.

As a team, the Panthers could not find ways to convert on their shots. They put up 17 more shots than MT but shot less than 42 percent from the field while allowing the Blue Raiders to shoot 45 percent. The biggest disparity of the contest was at the free throw line. The Panthers shot just nine free throws compared to the 25 freebies the Blue Raiders shot.

“They stepped up and we did not at the end of the game,” Russo said. “They were able to put it into another gear in every way.”

Additional reporting by Eduardo Almaguer

About the Author

Ruben Palacios
is the Assistant News Director of FIU student media, a sports junkie and a sneaker enthusiast. Not necessarily in that order. Loves the L.A. Lakers and Oakland Raiders. In that order.