Jerica Coley's teammates didn't have the greatest home finale or regular season finale. But they're more than making up for it at the Conference USA tournament.
Playing better than they have all season in successive games, FIU's Upset Special kept a-rollin' Thursday with a 69-55 win against No. 4-seeded Tulane. That's the third consecutive higher seed that FIU's made vulnerable to the old FHSAA tournament chant, "Get your hat...your coat...and LEAVE!"
Now, FIU faces No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State at 11 a.m. Friday live on CBS Sports Network in a game that matches the team with the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year (Coley) against the team with the Player of the Year (Ebony Rowe). Middle knows better than to take FIU lightly.
During the regular season, Middle beat the Panthers at The Branch 65-58, giving up 29 points to Coley but holding everyone else under double figures. FIU actually led 25-24 at the half. Last year, in the Sun Belt Tournament sayonara for each, after splitting during the regular season, FIU lost to Middle 68-59.
Thursday, FIU again shot well from the field, 28 of 56, but really sat on Tulane defensively, holding the Green Wave to 31.8 percent shooting from the field. This time, FIU owned the defensive boards getting 33 there, getting only five fewer offensive rebounds than Tulane did defensive rebounds. Tynia McKinzie had 10 rebounds to go with her 15 points. Coley and junior guard Kamika Idom came down with eight rebounds each. Taylor Shade had 13 points.
Of course, to paraphrase an old Soviet hockey coach about Bobby Hull, Ms. Coley, she got her points -- 34. She needs 28 against Middle to move into fourth all-time in NCAA scoring.