EL PASO, Texas –FIU’s Jerica Coley poured in 42 points after shooting 63.2-percent from the field as the No. 13 Seed Panthers defeated No. 5 Seed East Carolina, 87-75, in the Second Round of the Conference USA Tournament. The Panthers improve to 14-17 overall and will play No. 4 Seed Tulane Thursday, March 13 in the quarterfinals, while East Carolina falls to 22-8 on the year.
Coley connected on 12-of-19 field goals and 4-of-5 three pointers while sinking 14-of-16 free throws as she turned in a game-high 42 point effort to mark the fourth time this season she has scored 40 or more points. Coley also added four rebounds, one assist and one steal in 39 minutes of action. Arielle Durant (12 points) and Tynia McKinzie (11 points) also scored in double figures for the Panthers. McKinzie notched a double-double as she posted 10 rebounds. Kamika Idom also contributed 10 boards for FIU while tallying nine points, five assists, two steals and one block.
East Carolina’s Abria Trice registered a team-high 22 points to go along with three rebounds and one assist. Freshman guard J’Kyra Brown added 16 points, one assist and one steal, while Shae Nelson and Ondrea Shaw posted four rebounds each.
“I thought we competed and didn’t give up,” head coach Heather Macy said. “I’m very proud of that. Give all the credit to FIU. They played an amazing game. Obviously Jerica (Coley) is an amazing player. Congratulations to those guys.”
FIU shot 60.4-percent from the field as the Panthers converted 29-of-48 field goal attempts. The Panthers held the Pirates to just 33.8-percent shooting in the game as ECU was limited to a season-low 24.2-percent shooting from the field in the first half. The Panthers also out-rebounded the Pirates 46-26 in the contest.
FIU opened the game with seven straight points and never looked back. After holding East Carolina scoreless for the first four minutes of action, the Pirates were able to get on the board on a layup from Akia Jones at 15:55. The Panthers dominated the first half as they connected on 14-of-24 field goal attempts to shoot 58.3-percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ defense was stout as it only allowed ECU to convert eight of its 33 field goal attempts. FIU pushed its lead to double digits (20-10) after a three from Coley at 12:34. The Panthers extended their lead to 14 as they took a 36-22 halftime advantage into the locker room.
ECU opened the second half on a 9-2 run to move the score to 38-31 in favor of FIU. The Panthers would not allow the Pirates to come any closer as they pushed their lead back up to double figures taking a 47-34 advantage with 14:21 on the clock. FIU used several runs to push its lead to as many 22 points (66-44) at the 7:46 mark. Despite the deficit, East Carolina fought back and managed to come within eight points (79-71) with just 1:36 remaining in the game. However, FIU would cut the Pirates’ rally short and put the game away as the Panthers earned the 12-point victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament.
East Carolina will find out its postseason opponent and destination on Monday, March 17.