By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
The Panthers women’s basketball team entered the Conference USA Championships as the No. 13 seed, but left as one of the last four teams standing in an improbable run to the semifinals. Star senior point guard Jerica Coley played a huge role in the Panthers’ impressive tournament performance as she continued to climb the NCAA record books and reach milestones few have ever reached.
In the first round of the tournament, hosted by UTEP in El Paso, TX, Coley became just the 10th player in NCAA history to reach 3,000 points in her career as the Panthers trounced the Owls in a 85-65 win to advance to the next round. Coley, needing eight points to reach that mark, scored 20 in the victory.
The very next day Coley jumped from ninth on the career scoring list to fifth all-time, this time scoring 42 points as the Panthers stunned No. 5 seed East Carolina to move on to the conference quarterfinals.
Against No. 4 seed Tulane, the Panthers continued their magic with a 69-55 victory powered by Coley’s 34 points to set up a date with long-time rival and top seed Middle Tennessee in the tournament semifinals.
Despite a strong start in which the Panthers led the Blue Raiders early on in the first half, Middle Tennessee proved to be too much for FIU. Coley finished with a double-double, tallying 19 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers season – and Coley’s historic career – came to a close in a 64-57 loss to the Blue Raiders. She fell just nine points shy of moving into fourth all-time in NCAA scoring.
Coley finishes her career as the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer and fifth on the NCAA’s Division I women’s career scoring list with 3,107 career points. For the 2013-2014 season as of March 16, she stands as the nation’s leading scorer having averaged 29.5 points per game.
On March 19, Coley was named one of five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which recognizes the top point guard in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball.
She is also up for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors the attributes of NCAA Division I senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. You can vote for Coley by visiting their public fan voting page.