No surprise that the nation’s leading scorer, FIU junior guard Jerica Coley, began Saturday night’s game against Louisiana-Monroe almost unable to miss. The surprise was that the rest of the FIU roster began the game completely unable to hit.
And when that continued as Coley cooled and FIU’s defense turned more porous than a fish net, FIU suffered a 71-61 upset loss to ULM (6-15, 4-8 Sun Belt).
“We were outhustled end line to end line,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said. “We can’t depend on Jerica Coley to do everything.”
Coley poured in 22 of FIU’s 27 first-half points and finished with a career-high 39 points on 14-of-34 shooting and a game-high nine rebounds. The rest of the Panthers (13-9, 7-6) shot 6 for 32 from the field. Sophomore Tynia McKinzie got the only non-Coley field goal for FIU in the first half.
Without 6-1 senior Finda Mansare (concussion), usually the second offensive option, and 6-3 senior Diamond Ashmore (dislocated patella), 5-11 Marita Davydova became the No. 2 option. And the No. 2 option hit only 2 of 10 shots, whether from the perimeter or posting up.
“In fairness to Marita, I think she was fouled a lot,” Russo said. “When she shot, they were bodying her and hitting her all night.”
But when asked later if FIU should have posted up Davydova more as FIU tried early in the second half — without offensive success — Russo snapped, “Go back to the post. Would you go back to her? Really? She was throwing [stuff] over the backboard all night long.
“We did have a post-up. That was definitely one of our game plans. But she’s 2 for 10. She’s not knocking them down.”
Meanwhile, ULM, a 37.8 percent shooting team for the season, turned dead-eye in the second half, answering each rare FIU basket with one of its own. Inside, FIU clearly missed Ashmore and Mansare’s defense, as they did Thursday night against Middle Tennessee State. The Warhawks hit all three-pointers they tried in the second half, 15 of 25 (60 percent) from the field overall and got inside at will.
“We didn’t deny well so they got the ball in sports that were a high percentage for them,” Coley said.
Said Russo, “Very disappointing, very disappointing. It’s not easy to play without three impact players. We’re missing them big time.
“But this team still should’ve beaten this team [Saturday night]. It’s hard. Most of these kids don’t have minutes. So the experience showed in the other team.”