MIAMI, Florida (01/20/10) - Arkansas State sophomore NeNe Hurst scored a career-high 20 points and the Red Wolves (7-11, 2-5) rallied from 12 points down in the second half to tie the score late, but the FIU Golden Panthers (8-12, 3-6) were able to pull away in the final minute for a 65-61 Sun Belt Conference victory Wednesday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
Junior forward Shay Scott added 18 points for ASU, but FIU countered with 24 points from senior Monika Bosilj and 14 from junior guard Michelle Gonzales.
Bosilj scored seven points in the opening two minutes of the second half to help FIU open up a 37-25 advantage, and the Golden Panthers led by 11 with just under 12 minutes remaining before ASU began to chip away at the lead.
The Red Wolves tied the game at 59-59 on a jumper in the lane from Scott with 1:19 remaining, but Gonzales got free in the lane with 51 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 61-59 advantage.
Gonzales hit two free throws with 24.5 to play to give FIU a four-point lead at 63-59, but ASU forward Lyndsay Schlup dropped in a baseline jumper with 15 seconds on the clock to slice the Panther lead in half at 63-61.
Forced to foul on the following FIU possession, the Red Wolves sent Bosilj to the line with 13.9 seconds to go. Bosilj knocked down both free throws to stretch the Golden Panther lead to four at 65-61, and the Red Wolves were unable to score on their final possession.
"I'm proud of the team for their fight and getting back in it and tying it up," said ASU head coach Brian Boyer. "We have been a good team in tight games and have been tough in these situations, but tonight we were not."
"In the first half, we were okay defensively, but our offense was really frustrated," added Boyer. "Once we got things going offensively in the second half, we did some good things and kept it within reach. If we can keep carrying over what we saw in the second half it will certainly help us. But we have to complement it by not letting the defense and rebounding slip."
In the first half, Arkansas State led by four midway through the period, but the lead changed hands five times and the score was tied twice before halftime as FIU went to the locker room with a 30-25 advantage. Hurst scored 11 of her 20 points in the first 20 minutes, while Bosilj led the Panthers with 10.
The Red Wolves' south Florida road trip continues Saturday when Arkansas State visits Florida Atlantic for a 4:00 p.m. (CST) Sun Belt Conference matchup.