As a team, FIU finished fourth at the Sun Belt Swimming & Divsing Championships. But four individuals were judged the conference's best.
After winning her third individual conference title Saturday, the 200 backstrokes, freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir received the Sun Belt Swimmer of the Year honor. The Diver of the Year had exactly one contender, FIU sophomore Sabrina Beaupre, winner at 1-meter and 3-meters. Their coaches, Randy Horner and Chris Mantilla, respectively won the Sun Belt Swimming Coach and Sun Belt Diving Coach of the Year awards.
Sonia Perez Arau finished third in the 200 back, also with an NCAA qualifying time. Neither Perez Arau nor Gustafsdottir are guaranteed a spot in the NCAAs, however.
Before we get to seniors putting their things down on Senior Night, let's take a look at South Alabama women's coach Rick Pietri Saturday night against FIU. His explosions of reaction kept us entertained when the game degenerated into slop with players committing four fouls before getting called for one.
My two favorite moments escaped unshot (by me, at least). When the South Alabama defense didn't get out on FIU's Fanni Hutlassa and Hutlassa dropped in a three, Pietri jumped out of his squat and ran down the sideline, his feet kicking the air like some mad Eastern European kick dance. In the midst of this, he managed to whip his arm toward the scorer's table definitively enough that a player went to check into the game.
Another time, after FIU forced a shot clock violation, Pietri stomped a foot in triplicate, like he was in he road company of Bring in The Noise, Bring in The Funk.
At about the 1:35 mark...
Wait until 1:00 into this one, during the next-to-last FIU and South Alabama overtime possessions.
Fifth year senior Fanni Hutlassa had nine rebounds, went six of six from the line and was three of 12 from the field, but hit the key three pointer that gave FIU some margin for error at 56-53 in overtime.
That's when FIU started trying to hand the game back to South Alabama with a series of oops! and what? actions. Hutlassa fouled out seconds after her three, but FIU's Kamika Idom come down with the rebound of the second consecutive missed Jaguars free throw -- like old coaches say, there are two things that don't last long: dogs that chase cars and teams that don't hit their free throws. Idom's transfer of the ball to Jerica Coley went about as smoothly as Piscarcik-to-Csonka and South Alabama got to within one on a Mary Nixon bucket.
Instead of a forced shot by Coley, Frozone from the field Saturday, FIU got a look from Finda Mansare, whose five of 10 from the field at that time made her the Panthers' best shooter this night. Idom got the hustle rebound of that miss, then FIU inexplicably called timeout instead of just letting the clock run and forcing South Alabama to foul.
Pietri said at least six times in the USA huddle, "DON'T LET NO. 22 GET THE BALL!" and the Jaguars double-teamed Coley accordingly. But FIU ran a set where Idom wound up cutting toward Coley, bringing three Jaguars to an area with two FIU players and Carmen Miloglav inbounded into that mess. South Alabama came out with the ball, but Miloglav's defense on the final possesion altered Nixon's shot. Pietri's stomp in the video above is in reaction to USA having to foul Coley, 12 of 12 from the line Saturday.
Coley finished with seven turnovers Saturday and five of 18 from the field. Good as she is, her teammates not named Mansare and Hutlassa need to pop on more of the open looks they get, just so Coley's not required to forcing up junk as the shot clock winds down. On her part, as the best player and point guard, Coley should force a greater distribution of of the offensive load. She's the director on the floor.
I'm reminded of Connie Hawkins, one of those prodigious playground legends whose best never got broad exposure because he didn't hit the NBA until he was past his prime. In the original ABA, that brought us the slam dunk contest and the three-point shot, Hawkins played for the Pittsburgh Condors. A teammate noted that early in the game, Hawkins, by far the Condors best player, didn't take many shots. Instead, he made sure to get everyone the ball early with decent looks so the whole team felt involved and in the rhythm.
Just a thought as I wonder if Coley's wearing down from FIU's dependence on her.
In the men's game, Detroit men Jeremy Allen and DeJuan Wright kept smacked South Alabama back down right when the Jaguars looked as if they would prevent FIU's first season sweep of them. From 53-48 FIU, Wright and Allen combined for FIU's next 17 points. Two Allen threes sandwiched a Wright defensive rebound that put FIU up 64-50. Another Jaguars run got the FIU lead down to 72-69 and anybody who's seen this team at home settled in for the heartbreak. In fact, the only consistent fan cheering was from South 'Bama fans doing the "Dee-fense!" chant.
Wright got the layup, the foul and hit the free throw: 75-69, 2:06 left. Plenty of time, but you could feel the uprising die.
Up in Leon County, senior Iosmel Leon homered for FIU. Alas, that was one of only six hits in a 3-1 loss to Florida State.
Starter Mason McVay walked five, struck out nine and gave up two runs in four innings. McVay and Albert Cardenas kept FSU hitless from the second inning through a solo homer by James Ramsey, whose homer and bases loaded single accounted for all three FSU RBI.
Sophomore Mike Ellis starts today's third game of the series.
Raqurra Ishmar finished second in the shot put at the Sun Belt Indoor Track and Field Championship Saturday.