Wednesday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena featured one big step for senior guard Jerica Coley in the FIU record book and one small step backward for FIU women’s basketball on the team record.
When Coley drained a three-pointer with 15:18 left in FIU’s 59-41 loss to Rice, she moved past Albena Branzova’s 2,515 points to become FIU’s all-time leading scorer.
“It was just an open look,” Coley said. “I had a couple [open shots] before that. This was one that I made. I kind of took my time a little more.”
Coley finished with 16 points, bringing her career total to 2,524. FIU is one of five Division I programs with two players with at least 2,500 points. The Coley family is one of the few with career-leading scorers of two programs — Tamika Coley, Jerica’s aunt, holds the UCF scoring record.
Jerica Coley, a two-time Honorable Mention All-America selection, doesn’t easily break out of modesty when talking about what she’s done on the court.
“It just means with a lot of hard work, a lot of great coaching, you can accomplish some goals like that,” Coley said. “It wasn’t a goal, but … I guess it’s kind of a big deal if you think about it.”
Coley came into the game scoring double figures in 43 consecutive games, so there seemed little doubt she would get the record. Until the first half.
“I know I needed eight points. I wasn’t really counting,” Coley said. She arched her brows. “I was counting that I was missing.”
Her six first-half points came in one flurry — a free throw, a transition layup, then a steal that she turned into an old-fashioned three-point play. In the first half, although Coley’s 13 shots (two made) were seven more than the next highest Panther, she seemed almost on the periphery of FIU’s offense much of the time.
Rice slapped a double team on Coley whenever she got the ball within 25 feet of the basket, even when it meant the rest of the Panthers were operating on a power play.
It paid off. While Coley shot 25 percent from the field (6 of 24) for the game, the rest of the Panthers hit only 9 of 49 (18.4 percent). FIU spun gold into straw, turning 31 offensive rebounds into just five second chance points.