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Eagles Clipped by Gators, 60-55, in WNIT
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Delia De La Torre tied her career-high with 24 points as the Eagles fell to the Gators, 60-55, in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Monday night at the O’Connell Center.
FGCU finishes their first season as a Division I program with an overall record of 22-9 and winner of 17 of their last 19 games. FGCU’s season will go down as one of the best in program history for many reasons. One major reason why the 2007-08 season will go down in history is because Florida Gulf Coast was the first team in history to make the WNIT in its first season as a Division I athletic program.
“I am really proud of our team, especially our four seniors and the three young ladies up here,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “They made a lot out of this season and committed to making something out of this season after a broken start. They improved so much over the last couple of months. We had an opportunity to play a team with the quality of Florida and played the game to the wire, and had a chance at the end.”
De La Torre (Las Cruces, N.M.) also pulled down nine rebounds to go along with her 24 points. Chelsea Dermyer (Fort Collins, Co.) chipped in with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes.
“We don’t go out there expecting to lose,” said Senior guard Chelsea Dermyer.“We’ve had success the last two seasons and there was no reason for us to go into this game thinking that we’re going to lose. This is no different than last season, this is the post season that we were working for and that’s what we did. We weren’t just happy to be here, we were out there to win.”
The Eagles came out with a 4-0 run that would be answered by a Gators 7-0 run. Down 7-4 with 17:16 left in the half, FGCU went on an 18-8 run to take a 22-15 lead with 9:49 left. The FGCU run was capped by an Ashley Haegele (Imperial, Mo.) fast break layup. Florida would not waver after falling behind and outscored FGCU 20-5 over the final 9:49 of the first half to take a 35-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We had lapses in play that we too long to win the game tonight, and Florida is a team that will take advantage of your mistakes,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Karl Smesko said. “(Amanda Butler) made some key adjustments at the end of the first half and that forced us to get away from our game plan. We battled and played as hard as we can. I can’t fault our effort, but we had some lapses in execution.”
FGCU shot 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) from the field and 2-of-3 (66.7 percent) from long distance in the first half, while Florida shot 15-of-34 (44.1 percent) from the field and 1-of-7 (14.3 percent) from behind the 3-point line. The Gators won the first half rebounding battle 24-16.
De La Torre led the Eagles with 13 first half points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from behind the 3-point line. De La Torre added two rebounds and a steal.
The Gators opened the second-half with a 9-3 run to push their lead to 44-30 with 13:37 left on the clock, forcing FGCU to burn a timeout to stop Florida’s run.
The Eagles came out of the stoppage with seven straight points to cut the deficit in half at the next media timeout, but Marshae Dotson knocked in a jumper in the paint to stop the Eagles run and push UF’s lead back to nine, 46-37, with just over nine minutes left in regulation.
FGCU continued to fight and they stormed back to pull within a basket 52-50 with just under four minutes left to play. Jen Mossor helped the Gators maintain a two-possession lead at the final media timeout after she stole the ball from Mandi Pierce (Altoona, Pa.) at halfcourt and took it in for a layup to make the score 54-50.
FGCU came within a point at 54-53 after Pierce knocked in a 3-pointer from the left wing off an assist from De La Torre. Florida increased their lead to 58-53, but the Eagles countered with a layup from Dermyer to get to within three, 58-55, with under a minute on the clock.
With 19 seconds left in the game, Mossor missed a 3-pointer but the Eagles were unable to grab the offensive board and were forced to foul and put the Gators on the free throw line. Sha Brooks stepped to the line and knocked down a pair of free throws to put UF in front by the final margin of 60-55.