Tulsa's sophomore guard tandem of Ashley Clark and Kelsee Grovey combined for 39 points as Tulsa held off the FIU Panthers to grab a 78-73 victory in front of 407 fans at the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Saturday afternoon.
Clark had 20 points and Grovey added 19 points as Tulsa moved to 8-7 on the season and 2-2 in Conference USA action, while FIU fell to 8-9 overall and 2-2 in league play. Tulsa freshman Liesl Spoerl added 12 points and Stevi Parker ended up with nine points, all coming in the first half.
Despite the victory, Tulsa couldn't stop the nation's second-leading scorer Jerica Coley as the FIU senior did everything she could to pull out the road win for the Panthers. Coley scored a new Reynolds Center record, for men and women, with 43 points on 17-of-31 from the field, 2-of-7 from three-point range and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Coley scored FIU's final 24 points, coming in the last 10:47 of the game, and had all but nine of FIU's 35 second-half points.
The previous Reynolds Center women's record was 38 points by Tulsa's Jillian Robbins against Nevada on Feb. 19, 2005. The most-ever points at the Reynolds Center was 39 points by Tulsa's Anthony Price in a January 1, 2005 game against SMU. The previous high-point game for a Tulsa opponent was 42 points by Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas on Nov. 17, 2002 in a game played in Starkville, Miss.
Coley's junior teammate Kamika Idom added 15 points, as only three other FIU players scored in the game, totaling 15 points.
"Jerica Coley is incredible," said Tulsa Head Coach Matilda Mossman. "She didn't have wide open shots, she was shooting with people in her face. She has great control and recovers so quickly. She is a terrific athlete and a terrific scorer. Fortunately, our team effort was able to offset her 43 points."
Mossman was proud of here team's bounce-back effort from a loss Wednesday night against UAB.
"Ashley was terrific for us," Head Coach Matilda Mossman said. "Part of her game is her attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, but people haven't been able to stop her. I thought she played hard, and Kelsee Grovey played really hard. It hurt us when Mariah picked up her fourth foul and we played without her for about 10 minutes. It was hard for us to get things going with out her, but we managed to pull it out."
The Hurricane built a 16-point first-half lead, but FIU knocked it down to a nine-point deficit at halftime. Tulsa managed to take back its double-figure lead on the first basket of the second-half with a Spoerl layup for a 49-38 lead. The Hurricane managed to get the lead to 15 points on two Kadan Brady's free throws with 15:26 left on the game clock.
Coley's jumper in the paint at the 10:47 mark began a streak of 24 straight points, cutting the Hurricane lead to 58-51. Her two free throws with 5:59 left on the clock gave FIU their first lead at 62-61 since 4-2 early in the contest. Tulsa's Grovey got the lead back for the Hurricane 17 seconds later with a jumper and then increased the lead to three points with a layup at the 5:15 mark.
FIU, behind Coley's shooting, tied the score twice in the final 4:02 at 67 and 69, but the Hurricane held off the Panthers from taking the lead again. Grovey knocked down a huge three-pointer to snap a 69-69 tie at the 2:22 mark to put Tulsa ahead 72-69. In the final 1:48, the Hurricane connected on 6-of-8 free throws, while FIU's Coley missed three jumpers in that stretch asTulsa came away with the five-point win.
Both teams cooled off in the second half after a first half that saw Tulsa shoot over 55-percent and FIU knock down 47-percent of its first-half shots. Tulsa had a second-half shooting percentage of 31-percent from the field and ended with 46-percent for the game, while the Panthers connected on 41-percent of its shots in the second half as Coley shot 63-percent in the final 20 minutes.
Tulsa trailed only twice in the first half, coming at 2-0 and 4-2. Tulsa grabbed a 6-4 lead on a Brady layup at the 16:24 mark and held the advantage the remainder of the first 20 minutes.
In the next seven minutes, the Hurricane had its biggest lead of six points three times before Coley's three-pointer cut the Tulsa lead to one point at 26-25 with 8:15 remaining on the clock.
Tulsa then went on a 15-2 run over the next 4:14 to take a 41-27 lead with 4:39 on the clock. Ashley Clark's layup at the 8:53 mark began Tulsa's scoring spree, while freshman Stevi Parker led the Hurricane run with seven points.
Kelsee Grovey's layup at 3:25 gave the Hurricane a 16-point lead, 45-29, but FIU sliced into Tulsa's lead in the final 2:42 by out-scoring the home team 9-2 and leaving the court at halftime trailing Tulsa by nine points at 47-38.
The Hurricane shot 58-percent from the field in the first half and was accurate from three-point range as well by connecting on 50-percent of its three-pointers. Clark and Parker led a balanced first-half attack for the Hurricane with nine points apiece, while Grovey and Mariah Turner each added eight points.
Coley had 17 first-half points for the visiting Panthers, as FIU also shot 47-percent from the field and 43-percent from behind the three-point line.