FIU eliminates ASU women in Sun Belt quarterfinals

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. ( — The Arkansas State women's basketball team fell 57-50 to Florida-International in the semifinal round of the Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament Friday afternoon on the Convention Center Court at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

ASU rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to tie the game on two different occasions in the second half, but ultimately could not complete the comeback in a seven-point loss to the Golden Panthers.

"We've had a really good run through this and it's unfortunate because we are going to look back and finish the year with three straight losses," ASU head coach Brian Boyer said. "This was a really young team that did a lot of good things this year and we are only going to build momentum from that."

Hanna Qedan and Jalen O'Bannon scored a team-high 15 points, while Ashley Olvera was in double-figures with 10. O'Bannon also collected a team-high eight rebounds, while Quinishia McDowell finished her career at ASU by scoring four points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing out three assists and stealing two passes.

The Red Wolves trailed 27-18 at halftime and the Golden Panthers extended their lead to 32-22 with 17:32 to go in the game, but ASU went on a 7-0 run to close the gap to 32-29. Jane Morrill hit a '3' to pull ASU within 36-35 with 12:44 to go and Carlisha Wyatt tied the game two possessions later by making 1-of-2 free throws.

FIU responded and scored two straight baskets to go up by four, but a pair of free throws and a layup by O'Bannon tied the game at 40-40 with 7:14 left to play, but it would be the last time the Red Wolves would pull even with the Golden Panthers.

The Golden Panthers went up 49-42 after a 3-pointer from Jerica Coley with 3:35 to play and could get only as close as four with just over two minutes left.

The team's combined to collect 90 rebounds with ASU getting nudged out 50-40 on the battle for the boards. A-State, which entered the game shooting a Sun Belt best 43.7 percent from the field, shot just 24.1 percent on the afternoon. The squad went 18-of-26 from the free throw line and knocked down four 3-pointers.

"It was very physical game, especially in the first half and we didn't handle that very well as far as finishing some shots," Boyer said. "We dug ourselves a hole, but I thought we were much better and much more physical in the second half and gave ourselves a chance. I think it was just a case that we had dug ourselves such a big hole and had to work so hard to dig ourselves out of it that we just ran out of gas toward the end."

The Red Wolves trailed by as many as 12 in the first half after shooting just 3-for-22 (13.6 percent) from the field. FIU used a 12-1 run to build a 16-7 lead and pushed the lead to 25-13 with 4:13 to go in the first half.

ASU hung close by knocking 11-of-16 free throws in the first half and then rallied in the second half behind a strong performance from O'Bannon. The freshman scored 11 of her 15 points in the final 20 minutes.

A-State finished the year with a 15-15 overall record, while FIU improved to 19-11 and will face Middle Tennessee in the semifinal round on Sunday.