Shannon Murphy scored 16 points and dished out a game-high 7 assists in the win
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Just over three weeks ago, the FGCU women’s basketball team sat in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Sun with a 9-4 overall record and a 2-3 conference record, following a 75-67 home loss to ETSU. Twenty-three days later, following a 77-65 home victory over Belmont, the Eagles sit in sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Sun with a 17-4 overall record and a 10-3 conference record. FGCU now holds a one-and-a-half game lead over Belmont for second place, and following North Florida's upset win over ETSU, the Eagles are just a half game back of the first place Bucs.
In a very entertaining first half filled with runs for both teams, the Eagles jumped out to an early 7-2 advantage after Brittany Brown drilled a three-pointer just over three minutes into the game. The Bruins responded with a huge 19-4 run, capped off by Cacy Burtnett’s three-pointer with 10:21 left in the first half. Trailing by 10, FGCU clamped down defensively, forcing turnovers on Belmont’s next three possessions. The Eagles got it done on the offensive end as well, scoring nine consecutive points to pull within one point with 8:10 to go in the half. Belmont did not allow the lead to slip out of their hands, running off eight straight points to re-establish their nine-point lead, maintaining a decent advantage until the closing seconds of the first half. The Bruins’ Jessica Bobbitt drove to the basket for a layup to give her team a 35-27 lead with 1:27 to play, but Brittany Brown and Kelsey Jacobson connected on back-to-back three pointers to close out the half, bringing the Eagles to within a couple points, trailing 35-33 at the half.
The second half started out as a near-mirror image of the first half, with the Bruins getting off to a good start instead of the Eagles. Belmont opened up the gap in the first two-plus minutes of the second half, outscoring FGCU 9-3 to take a 44-36 lead. However, as they did in the first half, the Eagles always seemed to have a response every time Belmont looked like they were starting to pull away. Chelsea Lyles scored four straight points to cut the lead in half, and after another layup for Jessica Bobbitt, FGCU’s Shannon Murphy hit a three and Diana Jacklin made a layup, bringing the Eagles back to within one. Tristan Daniel temporarily stopped the bleeding for the Bruins, connecting on a three-pointer of her own. But the Eagles continued to score on virtually every possession, scoring seven straight points to take a 52-49 lead with 11:47 left in the game. Bobbitt scored again down low for the Bruins to cut the lead down to just one, but it was all FGCU down the stretch. A three from Kelsey Jacobson followed by a Brittany Brown layup expanded the lead to six points with 9:12 to play. Then, for a few minutes, both offenses cooled off slightly, with just 13 total points scored over a five minute span. But with 3:54 to play, Chelsea Lyles, the Eagles’ leading scorer, came through once again, knocking down a huge three-point shot to put the home team out in front, 67-57. The Bruins tried to make a comeback, getting as close as five with 1:33 left in the game, but FGCU’s free throw shooting sealed the victory, as the Eagles hit 9-10 from the charity stripe in the final minute and a half.
For the Bruins (13-8, 8-4), Jessica Bobbitt was a dominating force in the low post, scoring a game-high 21 points on 8-11 shooting. Bobbitt also added 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and a game-high 3 blocks. Kristin Bunch scored 13 points and pulled down a team-high 8 rebounds, while Tristan Daniel reached double-figures with 10 points in just 17 minutes.
For the Eagles (17-4, 10-3), Chelsea Lyles led the way with 18 points to go along with 6 rebounds. Shannon Murphy, seemingly coming out of her personal offensive slump, scored 16 points and dished out a game-high 7 assists. Kelsey Jacobson and Brittany Brown also each reached double-figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Eagles will finally get a few days of rest before hitting the road for the first time in a while, as they will travel up to Spartanburg, South Carolina to pay a visit to South Carolina Upstate on Thursday, February 5th. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. The Eagles will land back at home the following Thursday, February 12th, as they will play host to Kennesaw State at 7:00 PM. That game is also WBCA Pink Zone Breast Cancer Awareness Night, and all tickets for the game will be just $1. Also, with it being “Think Pink Night”, all fans are also encouraged to wear pink to the game.