FORT MYERS, Fla. – FGCU women’s basketball has announced the entire 2012-13 schedule, a slate that features 14 home games, including UCF and LSU, road games at Charlotte, USF, Virginia Tech and Richmond, a tournament in the Virgin Islands, eight contests against teams that qualified for postseason play and six games against teams with a top-100 RPI.
“This is by far our most challenging schedule,” said reigning Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year Karl Smesko. “Our non-conference schedule is definitely one of the most difficult in the nation. We have a lot of new players who are going to have to be ready to make positive contributions immediately.”
The Eagles are coming of the most historic season in its Division I history, advancing to the NCAA Tournament and earning a No. 12 seed in the Raleigh Region. FGCU finished with a 29-3 overall record that included a league-first 18-0 mark in the A-Sun. The Eagles verified the conference’s third-ever unbeaten regular season by cruising through the Atlantic Sun Tournament and taking the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Green and Blue, with their seven trifectas vs. St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, set the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (342) and three-pointers made per game (10.7).
FGCU will open the program’s 11th season against Division II Warner on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Alico Arena. Led by fourth-year head coach Matt Murphy, the Royals are coming off a 15-15 season, where they finished 8-6 in Sun Conference play and lost in the conference semifinals.
The Green and Blue then host FIU at ‘The Nest’ on Nov. 14. The Panthers finished 23-11 (10-6 Sun Belt) last season and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. FIU returns standout Jerica Coley, who earned 2012 Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year honors in leading the Panthers to their first 20-win campaign in the last 10 years. Coley, a junior, has scored 1,295 career points in just 66 career contests.
The Eagles head to Charlotte, N.C. to face the Charlotte 49ers, for the first time in program history, on Nov. 17. The 49ers, who return all five starters and nine letterwinners from last season's squad that went 16-14 overall and reached the postseason for the 10th-consecutive year (WNIT), ranked among the top third in the Atlantic 10 for home attendance in 2011-12.
The Green and Blue will spend the Thanksgiving holiday in paradise, as they will participate in the 2012 US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam at University of the Virgin Islands from Nov. 22-24. FGCU will compete in the Reef Division and will face BIG EAST member DePaul, the SEC’s South Carolina and Hampton in the three-day event. FGCU’s appearance in the Paradise Jam marks the third consecutive season that the Eagles have participated in a road holiday tournament. The Green and Blue defeated Virginia Tech (73-65) and Montana (68-52) in the 2010 Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico. Last season at the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii, FGCU fell to NC State (69-64) and picked up victories over Hawaii (72-52) and Alcorn State (85-38).
Ranked No. 24 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (April 3), DePaul finished the 2011-12 season with a 23-11 overall record (9-7 BIG EAST) and fell to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons, who set program records for 3-pointers (156) and 3-point field goal attempts (753), return their top three scorers, highlighted by the BIG EAST’s leading scorer Anna Martin (19.1 ppg).
Dawn Staley, the 2012 Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) Female Coach of the Year, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the most decorated participants in United States women's basketball history, led her Gamecocks to a 25-10 overall record (10-6 SEC) and fell to Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina was ranked No. 21 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and drew the No. 25 position in the last AP Top 25, which was released prior to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks’ 25 total wins and 10 SEC victories tied the 2001-02 team for the most in the SEC era. South Carolina defeated six top-25 teams, including five wins either on the road or at a neutral site, and, after tying for fourth in the regular season standings, reached the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Pirates, who finished 26-5 overall (15-1 MEAC) last season and lost to Stanford in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, ranked No. 8 in the final CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 (April 5). Hampton won their second straight MEAC regular season title and third straight MEAC Tournament crown, while also setting a school Div. I record for victories in a single season. The Pirates will have a different look in 2012-13 as they will be without their top three scorers, who accounted for 57.2 percent of HU’s scoring in 2011-12, including a first team All-MEAC selection and MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player in Jericka Jenkins.
FGCU returns to Alico Arena on Dec. 1 to host Maine. The Black Bears, who ended the 2011-12 season at 8-23 overall (4-12 America East), received high marks on their incoming recruiting class. Out of 342 NCAA Division-I women's basketball teams, Chris Mennig, National Scouting Director with Blue Star Basketball, ranked Maine's class 36th in the nation, while Dan Olson's 2012 Collegiate Girl's Basketball Report ranked UM’s class 57th overall.
A road trip to Tampa on Wednesday, Dec. 5 pits FGCU against USF at the newly renovated Sun Dome. The Bulls advanced to the postseason for the eighth time in nine seasons last year as they made a run to the third round of the WNIT. USF returns all but one player from their regular rotation. In the only meeting between the two teams in Tampa (Mar. 21, 2009), the Bulls defeated the Eagles, 88-81, in overtime in a second round WNIT matchup as current assistant coach and then junior Chelsea Lyles registered 20 points and eight rebounds in 41 minutes.
After a one-week break for final exams, FGCU travels to Virginia to battle Virginia Tech on Dec. 16 and Richmond on Dec. 19. Last season, the Eagles defeated the Hokies (69-41) and Spiders (81-67) at Alico Arena.
FGCU returns home to host their final two games of 2012 and wrap up the non-conference schedule, as they welcome UCF (Dec. 22) and SEC foe LSU (Dec. 28) to Fort Myers. The Knights, who won the Conference USA Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11, struggled last season and finished 12-17 overall and 7-9 in C-USA. FGCU leads the all-time series with UCF, 3-0, and defeated the Knights, 75-36, last December in Orlando. The Lady Tigers are coming off a 23-11 season where they lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed. Nikki Caldwell, who won national championships as both a player and an assistant coach at Tennessee and turned UCLA into a national power in just three years, returns for her second season at the helm of the LSU women’s basketball program.
On Monday, Dec. 31, the Eagles open A-Sun Conference play with a road matchup at Kennesaw State. FGCU defeated the Owls in the semifinals of the 2012 A-Sun Tournament, 76-53.
The Eagles open the New Year with a Jan. 2 game at Mercer. The Green and Blue then return home for a pair of games against Jacksonville (Jan. 5) and North Florida (Jan. 7), before hitting the road for two away contests. FGCU heads to Johnson City, Tenn. to battle ETSU (Jan. 12), winners of three of the last five A-Sun Tournament Championships, before facing USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. on Jan. 14.
The Green and Blue host Northern Kentucky, the A-Sun’s newest member, on Saturday, Jan. 19. The Norse return two starters and seven letterwinners from a squad that finished 21-7 overall and fell in the Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinal last season.
Home games against Lipscomb and Stetson follow on Jan. 21 and Jan. 26, respectively. The Hatters, who have become FGCU’s biggest conference rival, won the 2011 A-Sun Tournament Championship and earned an automatic berth to the WNIT last season. Stetson returns 11 players, including 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year Victoria McGowan, from a squad that finished 23-11 during the 2011-12 campaign. FGCU has won the last four meetings with the Hatters, highlighted by a 67-39 blowout in the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship game on Mar. 3, 2012.
Remaining home dates for the Eagles in conference play include USC Upstate (Feb. 9), ETSU (Feb. 11), Mercer (Feb. 28) and Kennesaw State (Feb. 2), while the remaining road contests of the 18-game double round-robin A-Sun schedule, include visits to Lipscomb (Feb. 16), Northern Kentucky (Feb. 18) and Stetson (Feb. 23).
The 2013 A-Sun Tournament will again be played inside Mercer’s University Center. The eight-team tournament format kicks off on Wednesday, March 6 and the championship game will be played on Saturday, March 9, with the winner being awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles return six players, including a pair of starters from last year’s squad that went 13-0 at Alico Arena. Redshirt junior Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS), a 2012 A-Sun first team All-Conference performer, A-Sun Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honoree and DI-AAA ADA Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year selection, is FGCU’s top returning scorer (14.3 ppg), rebounder (6.3 rpg) and field goal shooter (.524). The Green and Blue’s leader in assists (3.5 apg) last season senior Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State) is the other returning starter.
FGCU season tickets can be purchased in person at the Alico Arena ticket office or by phone at 239-590-7145. The FGCU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Combined season tickets for both the men’s and women’s teams are available again for a combined 50 percent discount. Season tickets for either the men’s and women’s program range from $99-$279, while a combined season ticket (both teams) ranges from $149-$419 depending on the seat location and whether or not an individual is a renewal or new purchaser.
For the most up-to-date schedule throughout the season, click the 'Schedule' link on the women's basketball page.
FGCU fans can follow FGCU women’s basketball on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FGCUWbb, on Twitter @FGCUWbb and on Instagram @FGCUWbb.