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Battle of the Birds: @FGCU_WBB To Host Winthrop in 2013 Postseason WNIT
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 | by Mike Hill (Mike_Hill84)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women's basketball team will host Winthrop in the first round of the 2013 Women's National Invitational Tournament at ‘The Nest’ on Thursday, March 21, it was announced late Monday night by the WNIT selection committee. Tip-off for the game is set 7:05 p.m.

The Eagles, who have posted a 27-6 overall record to date, earned the program’s fifth automatic bid to the WNIT after winning the A-Sun regular season crown with a perfect 18-0 record and securing the 10th 21-plus win season in the 11-year program history. FGCU is 3-4 all-time in the WNIT, with wins over USF, George Washington and Drexel.

Head coach Karl Smesko and the Eagles, who lead the nation in three-point field goals made per game (9.3) are currently 9-6 overall in non-conference play and 13-1 overall at home this season. FGCU is also a 4-1 at home against non-conference opponents.

FGCU has played five teams that received bids to the NCAA tournament, going 4-2 in those games with a pair of wins over Stetson (74-55, 72-55) and victories over LSU (76-70) and Hampton (70-59). The losses were against South Carolina (65-46) and DePaul (60-58) in the Paradise Jam. The Green and Blue have played a trio of teams that are in this year’s WNIT field, finishing 2-1 in those contests with wins over Richmond (70-62) and FIU (69-45) and a loss to Charlotte (79-60).

This will be the first meeting between the two programs. With a win in this year's tournament, the Eagles would advance to the second round to take on the winner of the Florida and FIU match-up.

Winthrop is making their second WNIT appearance in the past four years. The Eagles’ only other postseason appearance came in a 73-45 WNIT loss at Georgetown (2009). 

Winthrop enters tournament play with a 20-11 overall record. The Eagles were the No. 2 seed going into the Big South Championship after compiling a 14-4 league record, but were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Longwood (Mar. 8), 79-67.

WU is led by two-time Big South Conference Player of the Year Dequesha McClanahan who led the conference in scoring (19.9) and assists (5.9) for the second straight season. The 5-8 junior point guard is only 43 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in program history. The team's lone senior is 5-10 shooting guard Diana Choibekova, an All-Big South Second Team selection who is averaging 14.6 points per game had ranks third in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (3.36).

The Eagles have also gotten strong contributions from a pair of rookies this year. Schaquilla Nunn, a 6-3 center, was voted Big South Freshman of the Year after ranking second in the conference in rebounding (10.1) and blocked shots (3.36). Her blocked shot average also ranks her sixth nationally. The second half of the freshman duo is 5-9 guard Aliyah Kilpatrick who averaged 10.5 points per game and led Winthrop in steals (2.4). 

Fans can follow FGCU on Twitter (@FGCU_WBB), Instagram (@FGCUWbb) and on Facebook by liking FGCU Women’s Basketball (www.Facebook.com/FGCUWbb).