If Jerica Coley had a win-loss record, FIU’s victory over Dartmouth on Saturday would undoubtedly be hers alone.
Coley posted career highs with 39 points and six steals, and added six rebounds and four assists to help FIU improve its record to 5-4 with a 64-57 win over the Dartmouth Big Green at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
“Thank god for Jerica Coley,” coach Cindy Russo said.
It was Coley against the Big Green (1-8), with not much more than arms and legs in FIU white and navy around her on the floor, sending Dartmouth to their eighth-consecutive loss.
“It wasn’t particularly a stellar game by any means, but we made adjustments and we won,” Russo said. “[Dartmouth] is a very smart, disciplined team, we’re not. Hopefully we can learn from it and move on.”
Missed shots, turnovers, defensive breakdowns; it was all on display from the FIU women who Russo likened to eighth graders.
The closest the Panthers could come before the break was a wide-open three pointer from Coley at 4:15 to bring FIU within three. Still, the Big Green left the floor leading 32-25.
As her name was chanted by the band in the stands despite a 42-35 Dartmouth advantage, Coley rebounded Finda Mansare’s missed jumper for a layup at 13:56 of the second half. She went on a 12-point tear, claiming a lead for the Panthers for the first time in the game.
When a 5-7, unassuming guard finds all of the cracks in the five opposing women without any help at all; that's when the show really begins. The four other starters were 3-for-14 in the first half, while Coley finished the game one free-throw shy of perfection in 14 attempts.
“It means a little bit,” the junior said of her stat-filled night. “As long as we win.”
Coach Russo called it ‘scary’; the lessons that are learned, forgotten, and learned again by her veteran players. Mansare was the only other player on the roster to post double-digit points with 12. Center Marita Davydova had 11 rebounds, but was 0-for-4 from the field.
The Panthers dive back into Sun Belt action, taking on conference foe Middle Tennessee on the road on Dec. 20 before breaking for the holiday.
“You have to calm down, execute, [and] don’t make the same mistakes two, three, four times,” Russo said. “That’s not a good team. That lacks discipline. That’s not what’s going to help us win at Middle Tennessee. If we play like that, our clock will be cleaned.”