Take your pick on why FIU’s women whipped South Alabama 63-49 Saturday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena: offense or defense.
“We executed. We had a post game. We ran our offense,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said. Then, referring to Thursday’s loss to Arkansas State, “We did not come close to running our offense the other night.”
Also, junior guard Jerica Coley proved too quick off the dribble for South Alabama to stop. Repeatedly, given space to work, Coley slid to the middle for open jumpers. Coley’s 28 points came on 13-of-21 shooting — none of the 13 from three-point range — and 2 of 3 from the line. Coley also had a game-high eight rebounds and seven assists.
Senior forward Finda Mansare scored 14, all from the field, and had seven rebounds. FIU shot 51.9 percent while holding South Alabama to 36.2 percent.
Coley said that after Thursday: “We just knew we had to play better defense. Even though our offense needed to be better, usually when we play defense well, other stuff goes well.”
A running hook-like fling off the glass by Mary Nixon put South Alabama up 37-35 with 16:08 left in the game. From that moment, Alabama’s football team scored more points over the next 8:08 of its game than South Alabama’s women’s basketball team did over the next 8:08 of its game.
A missed three-pointer by Camille Reynolds went out of bounds. Coley stuck a jumper off the dribble to tie the game. Mansa El missed a three-pointer and Coley outhustled Nixon for the rebound, then sent Carmen Miloglav racing in for a fast break layup: 39-37, FIU.
Reynolds took her turn at a miss again. Nixon threw up an air ball against the down low defense of Finda Mansare and Marita Davydova. Another Nixon three-point miss. El bulldozed Carmen Miloglav for an offensive foul. Though that was South Alabama’s seventh foul of the half, officials didn’t send FIU to the line for a one-and-one.
It all worked out for FIU (3-4, 1-2 in the Sun Belt) as Coley again dribbled herself open for a jumper and a 41-37 lead. Sharon Sanders missed two free throws, Coley rebounded and fed Kamika Idom for a fast break layup. Mansare slapped away a Nixon layup, which turned into a Coley fast-break layup.
On the next trip down the court for South Alabama (5-3, 0-2), Jennifer Johnson clanked a three; Ronneka Roberston blew a driving layup, then a hook shot. Mansare rebounded to end that round of futility. A Coley offensive rebound kept a possession alive for a Mansare layup.