MIAMI — The Western Kentucky University women's basketball team saw a nine-point halftime lead go to the wayside Saturday afternoon at U.S. Century Bank Arena as FIU's Jerica Coley scored 29 second-half points to lead the Panthers to a 60-56 win in Miami. Senior guard Vanessa Obafemi led the Lady Toppers with 14 points, making three three-pointers.
LaTeira Owens scored in double-figures for the fifth straight game, putting in 12 points with a team-high eight rebounds. Alexis Govan added 11 points, four rebounds, and a game-high four assists in 32 minutes off the bench.
FIU (14-7, 4-4 Sun Belt) opened the game on an 8-0 run 5:17 into the game as WKU (6-15, 3-6 Sun Belt) missed it's first 8 shots from the field. The Lady Toppers got on the board at the 14:32 mark as Chastity Gooch made a pair of free throws to make the score 8-2. Obafemi then made WKU's first field goal, a three-pointer, with 13:59 to play in the first half to make the score 8-5. The Lady Toppers got within one point, 8-7, at the 13:12 mark as Gooch took a lob pass from Ellen Sholtes right to the basket for a layup. FIU took a 13-9 lead before baskets by Chaney Means and Jasmine Johnson tied the game 13-13 with 7:55 to play in the opening half.
Johnson gave WKU it's first lead of the game with 6:55 to go in the first half, 15-13, capping off a 15-5 run for the Lady Toppers. Obafemi and Owens then combined for a 6-2 run to give the Lady Toppers' a 21-15 lead with 4:23 to go in the half. WKU held the Panthers without a field goal for the last 5:48 of the half, as a basket by Owens with 20 seconds left game the Lady Toppers a 24-15 halftime lead. WKU ended up shooting 42.9% from the field in the first half despite an 0-for-8 start. FIU was held to 19.2% from the field and committed 13 turnovers.
After FIU scored first to open the second half, WKU went on a 6-0 run sparked by four Govan points to take a 30-17 lead, forcing the Panthers to take a timeout with 17:25 to play in the game. The Lady Toppers grew the lead to 15, 36-21, on Obafemi's second three-pointer of the game with 14:43 to go. Jerica Coley of FIU then went on a 6-0 run all by herself to get the Panthers within nine, 36-27, with 12:51 remaining in the game. After Obafemi split a pair of foul shots, Fanni Hutlassa and Finda Mansare combined for 10 straight FIU points to the game 37-37 with 9:54 to go in the game.
Johnson broke the tie with a layup at the 9:32 mark. Her basket started a 9-4 Lady Toppers run that included a Govan three-point play to make the score 46-41 with 7:53 remaining. Coley then scored eight straight points for the Panthers, giving FIU a 47-46 lead with 5:44 to go. Govan tied the game 47-47 with a free throw at the 5:01 mark. Coley took over from that point, going on a 10-0 run by herself to give FIU a 57-50 lead. All told, Coley scored the Panthers' last 19 points as FIU won 60-57 to salvage a season-split with WKU.
FIU shot 52.2% from the field in the second half leading to a 34.7% mark for the game. WKU shot 52.4% from the field and 47.6% for the game. Both teams pulled down 30 rebounds in the game, with FIU turning 16 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points. Coley led all scorers with 36 points, tying a career-high while adding nine rebounds. Hutlassa added 12 points, nine rebounds, and a team-high three assists.
The Lady Toppers return to E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday, Feb. 4 to take on South Alabama at 4 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader with the men's basketball team. Next Saturday's game is the Play4Kay game, with fans being encouraged to wear pink to the game in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The first 250 fans will receive a free Russell Play4Kay pink t-shirt. At halftime of next Saturday's game, WKU Athletics will recognize the 20-year anniversary of the 1991-92 National Runner-Up team.