Despite losing a top scorer in the opening minutes of the game, the FIU women’s basketball squad stuck to the game plan and and beat Texas-San Antonio 61-56 on Tuesday in the opener of the Conference USA Championship in Birmingham, Alabama.
The five-point margin was identical to the Panthers’ last conference win, a 59-54 win Feb. 13 against the Roadrunners in San Antonio.
Just 63 seconds into the game, junior Tianah Alvarado got fouled and hobbled to the free-throw line.
She hit both for the first points of the game but had to leave the game and could not return. She averages 13 points per game, but 17.2 in the team’s last five contests. Her status for Wednesday’s game against Marshall is uncertain.
Senior Taylor Shade and freshman Kristian Hudson took over the game. Shade scored 22 points, with Hudson adding 16 for the Panthers (5-25).
“Everybody woke up this morning in a really good mood,” Shade said. “I told the team that we had nothing to lose. When Tianah went down, we all just had to find a way to step up.”
“We stuck with everything we needed to do,” interim head coach Tiara Malcom said after the game. “I told the bench, ‘If we call upon you, just give us everything you have.’ The players stuck with the coaching staff and believed in us and believed that we would put them in a position to succeed.”
FIU played without head coach Marlin Chinn, who was suspended after a sexual harassment charge was made by senior guard Destini Feagin.
The Panthers played the kind of defense that helped them beat UTSA (10-19) in the previous meeting. FIU held the Roadrunners to just .263 (5 for 19) in the opening period. A balanced attack saw five Panthers score in the first and lead 12-11 at the quarter break.
The second quarter started the Panthers’ way, with FIU pushing the lead out to four. But the Roadrunners put together their own run and got the lead out to seven with 2:08 to play. That’s when the Panthers rallied and scored the half’s final seven point, capped by a Shade jumper to tie the game at 28.