Macon Madness! FGCU Beats Stetson to Claim 1st A-Sun Title & NCAA Tourney Bid
|Florida Gulf Coast||35||32||67|
|Stats at a Glance||STET||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.278 (15-54)||.431 (25-58)|
|3P FG Percentage||.111 (2-18)||.393 (11-28)|
|FT Percentage||.467 (7-15)||.750 (6-8)|
SANDERS - 8
McGOWAN - 1
SIMS - 1
SHARP - 1
CODDINGTON - 1
SANDERS - 2
MACON, Ga. – Behind a stingy defensive effort that held Stetson to their lowest point total of the season (39 points), the No. 28 FGCU women’s basketball team won their first Atlantic Sun Championship in their first-ever appearance in the A-Sun Tournament with a huge 67-39 win over the second-seeded Hatters in the championship game held Saturday afternoon at Mercer’s University Center.
With their 21th straight win, the top-seeded Eagles (29-2) become just the second team to post an A-Sun undefeated regular season and win the Championship Title. FIU accomplished the same feat in 1993 (12-0 regular season). The Blue and Green are now 9-2 all-time against the Hatters (23-10), including picking up three wins over Stetson this season.
Making their first A-Sun postseason appearance in their first year of postseason eligibility, FGCU became only the third team in A-Sun history to win the Atlantic Sun Championship in its first appearance. Lipscomb (2004) and Miami (1991) were the only other schools to win in their first appearance.
“We get our first chance at the conference tournament and win it, and have an opportunity to represent a great university, Southwest Florida and our conference in the NCAA tournament,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “This is a group that can win games in the NCAA tournament.”
Redshirt sophomore, A-Sun All-Conference first team choice and A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS) earned Tournament MVP honors after finishing with 16 points, three boards, three assists and three steals. Hansen hit 6-of-11 shots from the field, including a career-high four three-pointers. Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS), Eglah Griffin (Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar HS/Seminole CC) and Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds HS) all joined Hansen on the 2012 A-Sun All-Tournament Team.
The Eagles, the nation’s leader in three-point field goals per game (10.8), knocked down 11-of-28 shots from behind the arc and now have 335 triples as a team. FGCU, who has hit double digit triples in 19 games this season (including 11 in back-to-back contests), needs just six three-pointers to break the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (340), which is currently held by the 2009-10 Morehead St. team.
Ranked No. 3 in the CollegInsider.com Mid-Major poll and receiving votes in both national polls, the Green and Blue forced the Hatters into 19 miscues, which led to 18 FGCU points off turnovers. Stetson’s 39 points mark the 28th time the Eagles, who lead the conference in scoring defense (52.6 ppg), have held an opponent to 65 points or fewer this season and also the 18th occasion that FGCU has held an opponent to 55 points or fewer. SU’s 39 points are the fewest in the A-Sun Championship Final since 1991 (Miami 73, FAMU 44).
Chihil, who joined FGCU’s 1,000-point club with a layup at the 15:38 mark of the first half, tallied 15 points, six assists and three rebounds. Griffin added 11 points and four boards, while Knight chipped in with nine points, six rebounds and three blocks.
The Eagles opened the game on a 20-4 run, highlighted by 10 points from Chihil, to grab an early double digit lead with 12:21 left in the half. After a Griffin three-pointer gave the Eagles a 31-12 lead (7:06), Stetson closed the half on an 11-4 run to claw within 12 points (35-23) heading into the locker room at the half.
FGCU knocked down 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) from the field and 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) from behind the arc in the opening period, while the Hatters shot 31.3 percent (10-of-32) from the floor and were limited to just 2-of-12 shooting (16.7 percent) from long distance.
“The last six minutes of the first half, I thought we stopped executing both defensively and offensively what we said we were going to do,” Smesko said. “They made us a little uncomfortable going into the half. Halftime came at the right time, so we could regroup and get focused on what our points were for this game.”
The Eagles opened the second half with a 20-9 run, capped by a Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State) layup, to take a commanding 55-32 lead with 10:59 remaining in the game. The Eagles went on to hold off their rival Stetson, increasing their lead to as many as 28 points before picking up the convincing 67-39 win.
FGCU will learn its postseason fate on Monday, March 12. The 2012 NCAA Women's Basketball Selection Show will take place at 7:00 p.m. ET.
FGCU broke the program’s Division I record for wins (previously 28, set last season) … the double figure win was FGCU’s 23rd … the Eagles are a combined 16-2 in road and neutral games … Hansen has scored in double figures 12 straight games and a team-best 24 times on the season … Chihil has 40 double figure games in her career and is now the fifth player in FGCU history to score 1,000 points … Kennedy now has 59 steals on the season.
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