FIU WOMEN 78, PALM BEACH ATLANTIC 44

Jerica Coley moves closer to all-time scoring record in FIU’s win over Palm Beach

 

Jerica Coley moved to within eight points of overtaking Albena Branzova’s career scoring record.

Special to the Miami Herald

The instructions — surely — were to follow the player with the sneakers bedazzled with gold glitter.

But that was easier said than done.

The young woman with the golden shoes — and the golden game — is 5-7 senior guard Jerica Coley, who scored 31 points in 34 minutes to lead host FIU (6-7) to a 78-44 women’s basketball victory over Palm Beach Atlantic on Sunday.

Coley, fresh off a school-record 47-point game against Wake Forest, is now averaging 28.7 for the season, which ranks second nationally.

Last month, FIU retired Coley’s No. 22, a fitting tribute to a player who led the nation in scoring last season. She joined three other women who have had their basketball jerseys retired by FIU — Andrea Nagy, Dalma Ivanyi and Albena Branzova.

“Jerica is the most beautiful player I’ve ever coached,” said Cindy Russo, who is in her 35th season at FIU. “She’s a gem — priceless.”

Coley is eight points away from breaking Branzova’s career scoring mark of 2,515. She will get her next chance to break Branzova’s record on Wednesday when the Panthers host Rice in the program’s first Conference USA game.

Rice (7-6) will likely offer more resistance than Palm Beach Atlantic (7-11), which hung around for a half — trailing by nine points — before getting blown out.

Coley had 18 of her team’s 35 points by halftime and finished the game with six rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and no turnovers. She was 10 of 21 from the field, including 2 of 5 on three-pointers, and made 9 of 11 foul shots.

But despite all her great individual numbers, Coley has never played in an NCAA Tournament, and her chances of reaching that goal were diminished this season when 6-3 senior center Marita Davydova was ruled ineligible until 2014-2015 by the NCAA.

Still, even with limited help and defenses keying on her, Coley has produced 43 consecutive double-figure scoring games, including 17 in which she has 30 or more points.

Asked if she has a WNBA future, Russo responded quickly.

“I have no idea why she wouldn’t be drafted high,” she said.

Coley, a soft-spoken sort, was less assertive when asked the same question. “I guess I’m kind of confident, I’m not really sure,” she said. “Whatever happens, if they choose me, if they don’t, I don’t know.”

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