FORT MYERS, Fla. - Five Eagles scored in double figures and junior Nicoya Jackson (Houston, Texas/Cypress Springs HS/Southwestern Christian) scored a game-high 17 points as the FGCU women’s basketball team drained 13 three-pointers en route to a 79-39 win over A-Sun foe Belmont at Alico Arena on Monday night in front of 1,886 fans.
With the win the Blue and Green move to 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the A-Sun and extend their best Division I start in program history, while Belmont falls to 4-8 overall and 1-2 in conference. The win also extends FGCU’s home winning streak to 29-games, the third longest in the nation behind UConn and Stanford.
The Eagles, who are now 60-7 all-time and 24-5 since moving to Division I in the month of January, knocked down 13-of-36 (36.1 percent) of their three-point attempts on the night, to top their nation leading 11.1 three-point field goals made per game average. The Eagles have drained double digit three-pointers eight times on the season and now have 113 triples as a team. Seven different players made at least one trey for the Blue and Green, led by Jackson’s 3-of-7 night.
The Blue and Green’s defense was solid all night as they forced Belmont into 22 turnovers and held the Bruins to just 39 points on 12-of-46 (26.1 percent) shooting from the field and 1-of-15 (6.7 percent) from long distance. Belmont’s 39 points mark the third time the Eagles have held an opponent below 40 points since moving to Division I in 2007-08. The other two times that the Blue and Green accomplished that feat were against Seattle (51-38; 3/6/10) and North Florida (70-39; 3/1/08).
Jackson finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor and 3-of-7 from long distance. Senior Shannon Murphy (Brighton, Mich./Brighton HS) registered 12 points, a game-high six assists and four steals in just 26 minutes. Juniors Kelsey Jacobson (Barnesville, Minn./Moorhead HS) and reigning A-Sun Player of the Week Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/ Alter HS) and freshman Sarah Hansen (Edinboro, Pa./General McLane HS) each chipped in with 11 points apiece. Hansen also recorded eight rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Chihil added seven boards, a pair of assists and two steals.
Murphy’s six assists fell one short of her season-high but helped the Eagles finish with a positive assist/turnover ratio (15-7) for the seventh time this season. FGCU also won the battle of the boards by a slim 40-37 margin, highlighted by 15 offensive rebounds that led to a 12-2 edge in second chance points.
Haley Nelson led the Bruins with 16 points. Cacy Burtnett pitched in with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Eagles opened the first half on a 7-2 run over the first 2:48, highlighted by an and-1 layup from Chihil that gave Haley Nelson, Belmont’s second leading scorer and rebounder, her second foul of the game. After a jumper from Alyssa Visbeen cut the FGCU lead to 7-4 with17:04 remaining in the opening stanza, the Blue and Green employed a 9-0 run to take a 16-4 advantage.
Belmont responded by outscoring the Eagles 6-4 over the next 3:12 to cut the FGCU lead to 20-10. The Eagles went on to outscore the Bruins 13-4 over the final 6:54 of the first half, thanks to three-pointers from Jackson, Murphy and Jacobson, to take a 36-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Belmont’s 16 points are the fewest the Eagles have allowed in the first half of a game this season (previous was 18 at Jacksonville on Dec. 4, 2010). The Blue and Green have outscored their three A-Sun opponents133-61 in the first 20 minutes so far this season. FGCU also limited the Bruins to five first half field goals, which were the fewest the Eagles have allowed all season.
FGCU shot 12-of-35 (34.3 percent) from the floor in the first half, including 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) from long distance. On the flipside, the Bruins shot 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from the floor and were 0-of-6 from behind the arc.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 14-4 run to grab a commanding 50-20 lead with 12:55 left in regulation. Jackson then scored eight of FGCU’s next 10 points, thanks to a pair of treys and two free throws, to push the Blue and Green’s lead to 60-24.
Leading 60-26, the Eagles used a 19-5, highlighted by six points from both junior Lerrin Cook (Kearny, Ariz./Ray HS/Yavapai College) and freshman Kiara Bomben (Canberra, Australia/Ankeny HS), to extend their lead to 48 points at 79-31 with just under two minutes to play in regulation. Belmont scored the final eight points of the game before falling by the final score of 79-39.
The Blue and Green will return to the court on Wednesday, Jan. 5 when they play host to the Bisons of Lipscomb (6-6 overall, 1-2 A-Sun) in conference action. Game tip at Alico Arena is set for 5:15 p.m.