Throughout Saturday’s second half, FAU’s women seemed to have nemesis powers on FIU. Whatever the Panthers tried seemed to work for only a few possessions, then get defused as FAU held onto the lead.
But when it came time to deal the death blows, it was FIU who ran off the last seven points of the game and left the FAU Arena court basking in a 68-65 win. Meanwhile, the Owls walked off wearing expressions that played a medley of baffled and crestfallen.
The win closed FIU’s regular season at 18-11, 12-8 in the Sun Belt. FAU finished 12-16, 9-11 in the conference.
“I’m glad the time ran out. We’ve had a long week,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said, referring to Thursday’s road game at Louisiana-Monroe, midterms this week and next.
As expected, national scoring leader junior guard Jerica Coley led all scorers with 29 points and had six of those last seven points. The remaining point, a key free throw, came from FIU’s Marita Davydova, who had a game-high 11 rebounds. Chenise Miller lead FAU with 16 points.
Davydova’s play auditioned her for a different role in the outcome with 2:46 left. After spending most of the second half trailing, FIU tied the game at 61. Miller lost Davydova with a start-stop move, then stepped back for a jumper to put the Owls back in front, 63-61. Davydova dropped the entry pass on the next possession, leading to Takia Brooks driving baseline layup, a 65-61 FAU lead and an FIU timeout with 2:06 remaining.
Out of the timeout, senior guard Carmen Miloglav found a cutting Coley for a layup. Coley followed an FIU stop and Miloglav rebound by banking in a jumper off the dribble to tie the game with a minute left.
Three-pointers from Kimberly Smith and Briah Blakely bruised FIU earlier in the second half, but Blakely’s last three of the afternoon clanked away. FAU’s Breana Turner zipped in to grab the rebound and looked like she had projected an Invisible Girl force field as she had done so, so open for the short rebound jumper was she. Not only did Turner miss that, she fouled Davydova — and fouled out — on the rebound with 32 seconds left.
Davydova made the first of two free throws. FAU got the rebound off the second, setting up Miloglav’s moment.
“They were leaving the middle open because the girl who was mostly on Davydova was mostly going to the right side,” Miloglav explained. “This game, I was mostly on that side. I was just waiting for the perfect moment to steal that ball. If you steal it a couple of times early, they adjust it. In the last minute and a half, they were just running the same play.”
So, as Miller set up the same jumper from earlier, Miloglav swiped the ball. She quickly handed the ball to Coley, who was fouled with 17.3 seconds to go.
Coley hit both free throws. Smith, four of six on threes for the night, ended the game with a three-point shot that caught the front of the rim.