The FIU women’s basketball team took apart the North Texas press in the first half Thursday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
But in the second half, the Panthers fell apart against the Mean Green’s pressure and energy, falling 70-68.
In the second half, FIU committed more turnovers (9 to 6) and was outrebounded 18 to 15 by a smaller North Texas lineup.
And the hands of the Mean Green’s Alexis Hyder pulled down the most important of those rebounds in the last 26 seconds.
With the score tied at 66, Hyder drove powerfully against Finda Mansare and threw up a short shot off the glass that missed everything.
But with Mansare still retreating and nobody else down low, Hyder recovered her miss for a layup with 25.2 seconds left.
“We were outhustled and outrebounded at the end of the game,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said. “You can’t give a team an uncontested layup at the end of that game. There was nobody around. We deserve to lose if we’re going to do that kind of [thing].”
FIU still had two chances to tie the game.
After a timeout, the Panthers (10-7, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) got the ball to junior guard Jerica Coley, who navigated the North Texas defense before getting off a contested 15-footer from the right side.
The shot clanked away, as did most of Coley’s attempts in the second half (2 for 12). Hyder grabbed her eighth rebound, got fouled by Arielle Durant and made both free throws, the last of her game-high 20 points.
“I didn’t think they changed much [in the second half],” Coley said. “I just kept missing.”
Coley then missed a long, desperate three-pointer, but Marita Davydova grabbed her game-high 15th rebound and threw in a 14-foot jumper almost all in one motion.
Points 17 and 18 for Davydova left FIU down 70-68 with 0.8 seconds left, and the Panthers got one last shot at an inbounds play under the basket when Hyder’s inbounds pass went out of bounds at the other end without touching anyone.
Carmen Miloglav’s inbounds pass wound up going to Mansare just inside the three-point line.
Mansare never got to shoot though, fumbling the ball away.
“Well, we were obviously trying to get the ball to Jerica, but we just didn’t execute it well,” Russo said of the next-to-last FIU possession.
Of the last inbounds play, Russo said, “We were supposed to get the ball to Jerica cutting off that screen, but [Miloglav] didn’t do that either, did she?”
Coley finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Loryn Goodwin had 19 points for North Texas (7-10, 6-2).