FORT MYERS, Fla. – Senior Shannon Murphy (Brighton, Mich./Brighton HS) scored a game-high 21 points as the FGCU women’s basketball team defeated Jacksonville, 64-59, in front of 1,806 fans on Tuesday night at Alico Arena to clinch their second Atlantic Sun regular season crown and earn their fourth consecutive WNIT bid.
With the win, the Blue and Green improve to 23-2 overall (16-2 A-Sun), extend their home winning streak, which is the third longest in the nation (behind UConn and Stanford), to 37 games and guarantee themselves a spot in postseason play, while the Dolphins fall to 13-15 overall (8-11 A-Sun).
FGCU clinched a share of the A-Sun regular season title with the win over JU, but with ETSU losing at Campbell, 60-57, the Eagles clinched the regular season crown outright. FGCU now owns a three-game lead with two games remaining in conference play.
The Blue and Green, who lead the nation in three-point field goals per game (10.7), knocked down eight triples on the night. JU’s 59 points mark the 18th time the Eagles, who lead the conference in scoring defense (55.5 ppg), have held an opponent below 60 points this season.
Murphy finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-of 14 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from long distance in 36 minutes of action. Redshirt-freshman Sarah Hansen (Edinboro, Pa./General McLane HS) registered 15 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a pair of steals. Junior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS), who was in foul trouble all night, chipped in with eight points, six boards and two assists in just 14 minutes.
Taneske Richardson led the Dolphins with 21 points and 18 rebounds, while Ashanti Williams came off the bench to score 20 points.
Jacksonville opened the game on an 11-7 run, capped by a layup from Crystal Bell. The Eagles responded with a 16-2 spurt to grab their largest lead of the game (10 points), 23-13, with 8:24 left in the opening half.
A layup from Hansen gave the Blue and Green a 32-24 lead with just 37 second left in the opening stanza. The Dolphins answered Hansen’s bucket when Williams banked in a trey ball with 14 seconds left on the game clock to cut the FGCU lead to five points (32-27). With the clock running down, junior Sarah Whitfield (Eugene, Ore./South Eugene HS/Lane CC) drove left and scored a layup as time expired to give the Eagles a 34-27 advantage heading into the locker room at the intermission.
JU was limited to just 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from behind the arc in the first half.
FGCU hit 12-of-29 (41.4 percent) from the floor in the first half, including 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from long distance.
Jacksonville opened the second half on a mission, as they outscored they Eagles 23-14 over the first 12:51 of the period to take a 50-48 lead. The Blue and Green, as they have all season at home, never wavered, as they employed a quick 14-5 run to regain their lead (62-55) with 1:46 left in regulation. The FGCU run was highlighted by eight points from Murphy and capped by a clutch trey ball from junior Kelsey Jacobson (Barnesville, Minn./Moorhead HS).
Jacksonville continued to fight as they had done all night, but the Eagles were able to hold the Dolphins off and pick up the 64-59 win.
The Blue and Green will return to the court on Saturday, Feb. 26 when they host the Ospreys of UNF (13-15 overall, 11-8 A-Sun) at Alico Arena. Tip off is set for 5:15 p.m.
The WNIT selection committee will announce the 64-team Postseason WNIT field late the evening of Monday, March 14, following the NCAA Tournament field announcement. The WNIT field will consist of 31 teams, including FGCU, that receive automatic berths and 33 teams that are awarded at-large berths. The first round of the WNIT scheduled for March 16-18.