FIU’s basketball teams come into their first Conference USA games — the women Wednesday night at home against Rice, the men at Rice on Thursday — looking a bit on the haggard side.
FIU men’s coach Anthony Evans thinks a lack of depth hurt FIU on its current run of losses to Louisville, Georgetown and Florida A&M. FIU’s women, at 6-7, still are figuring out how to refit themselves after losing center Marita Davydova to eligibility issues.
“We’ll never make up for the loss of Marita Davydova,” FIU women’s coach Cindy Russo said. “My biggest fear is the wear and tear it’s going to have on all these young kids that have not played minutes. They’re doing fine now. We’ve got five months of just playing games. They get tired. And weary. It’s going to be tough at the end.”
Looking for an upside to FIU women’s basketball usually means asking about the latest from senior guard Jerica Coley. The answer Wednesday would be that, barring abominable luck or shooting, Coley will become FIU’s all-time leading scorer Wednesday. Her 2,508 points sit only a few jumpers behind the 2,515 Albena Branzova compiled from 1991-95.
Coley’s 28.7 points per game puts her second in the nation behind Baylor’s Odyssey Sims’ 30.8. She’s the only Panther scoring in double figures.
“I do concern myself with her longevity,” Russo said. “When you’re seniors, you’re giving it all you’ve got. I don’t think you see a fatigue factor coming in with her. She’s going to play out strong. That’s going to be helpful. Hopefully, we can continue to grow. We have some talent, we’re just really young. There’s a lot of experience in our conference, kids who have been playing three or four years.”
Evans parallels Russo’s concerns about depth. Four of FIU’s five starters average more than 30 minutes per game.
“You look at Rakeem [Buckles. a fifth-year senior forward], who hasn’t played in a couple of years, and he’s going through a full season right now,” Evans said. “Physically, you want to make sure that he can play to his top level throughout the season. But we have to continue to monitor that. Just having people to put in there to give guys a rest is the biggest thing.”
The men go from Rice on Thursday to Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
“Rice is very disciplined, methodical, execute very well and shoot the basketball,” Evans said. “They have a point guard who is similar to Ray Taylor, which creates some defensive problems for us. Penetration-wise, we’re going to have to do a good job of keeping them out of the lane. Louisiana Tech’s a very very good mid-major team. They’ve been together for a year, had a lot of success last year and bring basically everybody back. They pressure you, they can score.”