The FIU women’s basketball team exited its FIU Arena locker room on Friday wearing expressions of horror iced with sadness.
Most players stopped to hug Jerica Coley, the greatest player in FIU history.
There’s no question what happened on the court in a season-opening 73-56 loss to Tennessee Tech.
The only question was what FIU coach Cindy Russo said to her team during an extended postgame talk to make them look like they had seen the heart of darkness.
On the court, an experienced team with pterodactyl length, tremendous depth and more than a little talent and teamwork ripped through the Panthers.
Spin moves off the dribble and layups off slick passes from bigs working down low helped the Eagles take a 32-24 lead at halftime. They pulled away throughout a second half during which they shot 51.6 percent from the field.
A junior guard led each team in scoring, FIU’s Taylor Shade finishing with a game-high 18 points and Tennessee Tech’s Samara Howard getting 17.
But three other Eagles reached double figures while only senior Tynia McKinzie (14 points) did for FIU.
“I told them they played like losers in life,” Russo said. “They didn’t compete. They didn’t support each other. They played as individuals — a lot of pouting. They beat us up and beat us down. Even [Tech coach Jim Davis] said they’ve never seen officials let his team play like that. He said, ‘We got away [with] a lot of fouls.’
“They’re more disappointed with themselves than I am. And I’m pretty disappointed with them. So I don’t think you’ll see this team come back and act like this again.”