MIAMI (Feb. 25, 2012) - Three Panthers scored in double-figures as the FIU women's basketball team defeated Sun Belt Conference foe South Alabama, 58-55, in overtime on Saturday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena. On Senior Night, Fanni Hutlassa and Sasha Melnikova were honored before playing in their final collegiate home game.
With the win, FIU closes out the regular season with an overall record of 20-9 and a league ledger of 10-6, while USA falls to 16-12 overall and 8-7 in SBC play. The 20-win campaign marks the first in 10 seasons for the Panthers, and the 10-win conference season marks the second-straight for FIU.
Sophomore Jerica Coley led all scorers with 25 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-9 shooting from three-point land, and 12-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. Her perfect performance at the charity stripe ties an FIU single-game record, and she has now scored in double-figures in each of FIU's 29 games this season, including registering 20 points or more in 21 contests. Coley played all 45 minutes against the Jaguars, recording seven rebounds, three assists, a team-high three blocks and two steals.
Hutlassa scored 14 points in her final game at U.S. Century Bank Arena, hitting on just 3-of-12 from the field, with two of those makes coming from beyond the arc, and going 6-of-6 from the free throw line. For the second-consecutive game, Hutlassa came up just short of a double-double with a squad-best nine rebounds, while also notching a team-high three steals and dishing out one assist in 43 minutes.
Rounding out FIU's double-figure scorers was junior Finda Mansare with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 shooting from the charity stripe. Mansare played 42 minutes, recording seven rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal, while junior Carmen Miloglav dished out a team-high four assists on the night.
As a team, FIU shot just 29.1 percent (16-of-55) from the floor, but the Panthers were a perfect 20-of-20 from the free throw line. South Alabama shot 29.0 percent (18-of-62) on the night, converting just 11-of-22 free throws (50.0 percent). Defensively, FIU out-rebounded USA by a narrow 41-40 margin and the Panthers out-blocked the Jaguars, 5-1, also winning the steals battle, 7-6.
South Alabama ran out to a 16-point lead at 27-11 with six minutes remaining in the opening stanza before FIU fought back to within four at 28-24 at the halftime break. In the second half, the Panthers took their first lead of the half at 33-31 by way of a three-pointer from freshman Kamika Idom and the squads battled back and forth to a 51-51 tie at the end of regulation.
In overtime, the teams traded pairs of free throws to bring up the ninth tie of the contest at 53-53. Hutlassa would then drain a trey at the 1:12 mark to put FIU on top at 56-53, and South Alabama countered with a layup to get to within one at 56-55 with 41 seconds remaining. Coley was then able to sink two free throws with five seconds left on the clock to seal the victory for the Panthers.
FIU will now await the announcement of the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Championship bracket, as the Panthers will travel to Hot Springs, Ark., on March 3-6 to begin postseason play. Stay tuned to www.FIUSports.com and www.SunBeltSports.org for more information.
About FIU Athletics: FIU Athletics is home to more than 400 student-athletes in 17 different sports, and is a proud member of the Sun Belt Conference and an affiliate member of Conference USA (men's soccer). Athletic events are played in seven different venues on FIU's campuses (Modesto A. Maidique and Biscayne Bay), including U.S. Century Bank Arena and Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium.
About FIU: Florida International University is recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. Its colleges and schools offer more than 180 bachelors, masters and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida's anchor institutions, FIU is worlds ahead in its local and global engagement, finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission and enrolls 46,000 students in two campus and three centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell and the Miami Beach Urban Studios. More than 140,000 alumni live and work in South Florida. FIU is a member of the Sun Belt Conference and has 400 student-athletes participating in 17 sports. In 2010 the Panthers won their first bowl game. For more information about FIU, visit www.fiu.edu.
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