@FGCU_WBB Improves to 5-0 with 69-57 win at Mercer
Saturday, January 18, 2014 | by Jamie Church (@jlchurch)
Whitney Knight led the Eagles with 18 points against Mercer Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson
Whitney Knight led the Eagles with 18 points against Mercer Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson
FLORIDA GULF COAST (11-6, 5-0 A-Sun)
Mercer (9-8, 2-4 A-Sun)
1/18/2014 | Macon, Ga. (Hawkins Arena) | Attendance: 784
Stats at a GlanceFGCUMER
FG Percentage.418 (23-55) .357 (20-56)
3P FG Percentage.371 (13-35) .200 (2-10)
FT Percentage.667 (10-15) .938 (15-16)
Offensive Rebounds1411
Defensive Rebounds2622
Total Rebounds4033
Bench Points1520
Statistical LeadersFGCUMER
PointsKNIGHT - 18
ReboundsATWATER - 7
AssistsDUNSON - 5
StealsKNIGHT - 4
BlocksMEADOR - 1

MACON, Ga. – Backed by 13 team 3-pointers and 18 points from sophomore Whitney Knight, the FGCU women’s basketball team defeated Mercer University 69-57 Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Arena.  With the win, the Eagles improve to 11-6 on the season with a perfect 5-0 mark in Atlantic Sun play.  The Bears fall to 9-8 on the year with a 2-4 conference record.

The win concludes a sweep of FGCU’s first conference road trip and extends the Eagles’ regular season conference win streak to 41 games. The team begins conference action with a 5-0 record for the fifth-consecutive season.

The Eagles held a 10-point advantage at halftime but broke open the lead early in the second half by sinking 6-of-10 3-point shots in the opening minutes.  FGCU maintained the lead on strong shooting and capitalizing on Mercer mistakes.  The Eagles extended their lead to a game high 30 points midway through the second half and ultimately took the win, 69-57.

 “I was really happy with our execution in the second half,” said head coach Karl Smesko of the team’s win. “We did a much better job against the zone and we did some of the things we wanted to do from the start.  Mercer has some pretty good scorers and I think in the first ten minutes of the second half we did a really good job defensively - limiting their touches and looks at the basket.  We got a little sloppy at the end of the game but overall I’m happy with the performance today.  A lot of people made really good contributions and I think we’re getting better.”

The team converted 42 percent of shots from the field and 37 percent of long-range attempts, while holding the Bears to a shooting percentage of 36 percent overall and just 20 percent from beyond-the-arc.  The Eagles won the rebound battle 40-33 and forced 15 Mercer turnovers.  FGCU’s rebounding effort included

With four made 3-pointers on five attempts, sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) led the Eagles with 18 points on the day. Knight also grabbed five rebounds and four steals and dished out two assists. 

Sophomores Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westwood High School/VCU) and Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School) added double-figures for the Green and Blue with 14 and 11 points, respectively.  Atwater also paced the Eagles with seven rebounds in 27 minutes.

After two scoreless minutes to start the game, sophomore DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School) put the Eagles on the scoreboard with a jumper in the paint.  The Eagles went on to take a 4-0 lead after forcing two turnovers in the next three Mercer possessions and adding points on a Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) layup.

Haas extended the Eagle lead to 7-2 on a traditional 3-point play and helped the Eagles collect six offensive rebounds in the first four minutes of action. 

The Green and Blue maintained the lead with several forced turnovers and held a 12-6 advantage.  Midway through the half, Knight produced five-quick points to give the Eagles their first double-digit lead of the game at 17-6.

The extended lead was short lived as Mercer constructed a 10-point run over the next three minutes.  The Bears cut the Eagle lead to just one point at 17-16 before Hansen responded for the Eagles with a shot from long range.

The teams traded baskets with the Eagles holding a slight advantage before FGCU outscored Mercer 7-2 in the final two minutes to go into the break with a 10-point advantage.

Backed by eight points from Haas and seven points from Knight, the Eagles held a 32-22 lead at halftime.

The Eagles opened the half with quick pressure on the home team.  Knight and Haas produced three quick 3-pointers to take a 41-24 lead and force Mercer to call timeout just two minutes into the half.

The home team responded in attempt to halt the Eagle momentum but FGCU continued to sink 3-point shots to build a further lead.

With a second-half shooting percentage of .692, including 7-of-11 made from 3-point range, and five forced Mercer turnovers, the Eagles extended the lead to 62-32 midway through the second half.

The Bears produced a 13-2 run late in the half to challenge the Eagles but another made shot from beyond-the-arc by Atwater cut the momentum and brought the score to 69-48 with just fewer than four minutes to play.

Mercer fought through the remaining minutes and scored nine unanswered points to conclude the game but it was not enough as the Eagles took a 12-point victory.

With the win, the Eagles remain atop the Atlantic Sun standings with a record of 5-0 and an overall mark of 11-6.  The Green and Blue stands tied with Jacksonville as the only undefeated teams remaining in league action. 

FGCU will return to Alico Arena next weekend as they host Jacksonville in a battle of the unbeaten.  Jacksonville holds a record of 5-0 in conference action and 8-8 overall after defeating previously undefeated Northern Kentucky on Saturday.  Tipoff in the pivotal matchup is slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. 

For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the women’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_WBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUWBB.

2013-14 women’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.