Coley topples two FIU records en route to WNIT loss against Florida

Ruben Palacios/ Staff Writer

A strong start by FIU was not enough against the University of Florida in a WNIT opening round matchup at the U.S. Century Bank Arena. The Gators stood the FIU run and pulled out the game 75-68.

The Gators improve to 19-14 and will advance to play Winthrop University sometime between March 23-25.

“They did a really nice job. They played hard and went end line to end line, ran and we didn’t get back or defend well enough,” Head Coach Cindy Russo said. “We didn’t play at the level we needed to at the end and they just took it right to us.”

The Panthers started the game off with a bang. They ran off to an 11-1 lead within the first few moments behind the stellar early play of junior Jerica Coley and Finda Mansare.

The Gators, though, would counter with a run of their own. A 10-0 run by UF cut the FIU lead down to one at 17-16. The two squads exchanged runs for the rest of the first half; the Panthers went into the break leading 38-36.

Coley led the way for the Panthers in the first half with 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting from the field. The All-American was dominant in the first half in every statistical category recording three rebounds, three assists and four steals while converting all five of her free throw attempts. Mansare was a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the opening stanza, finishing with 8 points, two rebounds and two assists.

Overall, the Panthers shot 51 percent from the field in the first half, while the Gators could only convert on 41 percent of their shots from the field. UF, though, gained an advantage from behind the three-point line by converting 4 out of 10 treys in the opening period.

The Gators opened the second half like the Panthers did the first: with a bang. Sydney Moss scored 16 points in the second period and 28 points for the game. The Panthers did not have an answer for Moss despite putting multiple defenders on her.

“We tried everything. We tried some trapping but no one would step up,” Russo said. “She’s a great player and she had a really nice night. Everything she was throwing up there was going in.”

As a team, the Gators outscored the Panthers 39-30 in the second half while shooting 46 percent from the field. UF clamped down on defense and held FIU to 31 percent shooting in the second stanza, a far cry from their 51 percent shooting in the opening period.

“They got on the boards big time and we did not. I told them at halftime that they had to take a step up and they did not take a step up,” Russo said. “And we knew that team was going to put it in another gear, I guess we just don’t know how to put it in another gear.”

With less than a minute to go and the game within reach, Coley passed up a shot and dished to sophomore Kamika Idom, who hoisted the potential game-tying three point shot. Idom missed and Gator free throws would ice the game.

“I hoped she would make it but she missed,” Coley said. “You can’t make everything. It was a good look though, it just didn’t fall.”

Coley led the way for the Panthers with 37 points on 9 of 24 shooting and a perfect 18 of 18 from the free throw line. It was another monster performance for the SBC Player of Year as she added seven rebounds, four assists and five steals.

With her 37 points, Coley broke the single-season scoring record at FIU with 840 points this season. Coley also became the second leading scorer of all-time and is on pace to become the all-time leader next year.

The Panthers finish their season 19-13.

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.