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FIU's Jerica Coley scores 3,000th career point

AP - Sports

FIU senior Jerica Coley did not initially understand how rare it is for a women's college basketball player to reach the 3,000-point mark.

When it was explained to her, she was blown away.

Coley is the 10th player in NCAA Division I history to eclipse the 3,000-point barrier, doing so with a 20-point showing Tuesday in FIU's 85-65 win over Rice in the first round of the Conference USA tournament at El Paso, Texas.

She's at 3,012 points for her career, and will get at least one more chance to keeping adding to the total when the Panthers (13-17) play East Carolina on Wednesday in the tournament's second round.

''One of my teammates was telling me that I was the 10th to get to that number, so it seems like a pretty big deal if in all the years only 10 people have gotten it so far,'' Coley said Tuesday night in a telephone interview. ''I'm sure I'll think about it more a little later, but just that fact was pretty shocking.''

Coley entered Tuesday eight points shy of the milestone, and got there on a layup that put FIU ahead 44-34 with 18:03 remaining. She's averaging 29.2 points per game, putting her on pace to lead the nation in scoring for the second straight season.

''She did a beautiful job,'' FIU coach Cindy Russo said.

She passed Maine's Cindy Blodgett (3,005) for ninth place on the Division I career list Tuesday. By the time Wednesday's game ends, Coley could realistically be No. 5 on the all-time charts.

And the next four names on that scoring list were colossal stars in the women's game.

USC's Cheryl Miller is eighth on the career list at 3,018 points. Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw is seventh at 3,025. Connecticut's Maya Moore is sixth at 3,036, and Delaware's Elena Delle Donne is sitting in fifth at 3,039.

With 28 points Wednesday, Coley would pass them all.

''I never would have thought that this would have ever come about, and it did,'' Coley said. ''It's a great honor to be in the same company with those names.''

FIU began dubbing her ''Holy Coley'' around the time that Coley was approaching the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore, and the moniker has stuck since. Coley has never particularly sought the attention she's gotten, and at times has wondered what all the fuss is really about.

She lauded teammates for helping her handle all that's come her way.

''I have really good teammates and they've made me feel good about the whole thing for the last three years,'' Coley said. ''They never made me feel weird. Having them on my team and helping me get to where I am, that's made the whole experience even more fun.''

In fact, the 20-point effort on Tuesday was well below her season average. But her teammates combined to score 65, and Coley found that part just as enjoyable as seeing her name added to one of the most exclusive clubs in women's basketball.

''I think it was the best game we have played all year,'' Coley said. ''A lot of people contributed. A lot of people stepped up. For us to get this win in that fashion, and for me to get 3,000 points, it made for a really good day.''

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