New FIU women’s basketball coach Marlin Chinn wanted a running team that hit 80 points per game. Count the Panthers as being 1 for 1 in that category and 1 for 1 on their record after an 81-65 season-opening win over Florida A&M on Friday night at FIU Arena.
And while the Panthers played with great energy, the 5 p.m. tipoff looked less like work than an extended Happy Hour.
“We had a lot of fun,” FIU junior forward Janka Hegedus said. “After last year, we had to work harder, of course, but I can already see the results in the first game. The energy was there.”
Hegedus, who said she was having so much fun that she wished the game would have just kept going, led the five FIU players in double figures: Hegedus (25), sophomore Jade Cheek (12), senior guard Taylor Shade (11), junior forward Soraya Page (10) and Tianah Alvarado (10).
Cheek played 28 minutes all of last season and scored five points. On Friday, designated by Chinn as having the green light to fire whenever open, she played 19 minutes and shot 4 of 8 from the field.
Of Hegedus’ 25 points, 10 came on 10-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line. FIU shot 20 of 25 (80 percent) from the line as a team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our ladies,” Chinn said. “They came out ready to play. We challenged them in practice after Tuesday’s game [an exhibition loss to Division II Barry]. We just had to clean up some things on the defensive side of the ball. They came out and really imposed their will defensively.”
Playing the new four-quarter format, FIU led by 11 after one period and by 27, 47-20, at halftime as the Panthers forced 18 turnovers and 6-of-28 shooting from FAMU. Despite getting four fouls early, Olivia Antilla led the Rattlers with 20 points in just 27 minutes.
Chinn’s biggest problem seemed to be keeping his team interested with a 20-point lead throughout the second half. After a possession ended in Hegedus airball from three-point range, Chinn called a 30-second timeout to loudly demand less sloppy play.