FLORIDA GULF COAST
12/4/2013 | Alico Arena | Attendance: 1721
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||25||35||60|
|Stats at a Glance||USF||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.333
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a strong second-half comeback, the FGCU women’s basketball team defeated in-state foe USF 60-55 Wednesday night in the team’s return to Alico Arena. With the win, the Eagles improve to 5-3 on the season, while the Bulls of the American Athletic Conference drop to 4-3.
With a shooting percentage of just 31 percent in the first half, the Eagles entered halftime trailing 36-25 but created a 14-3 run to open the second half and tie the score. The comeback occurred during a period of just six minutes, spanning between the first and second halves. The Green and Blue outscored the visiting team 35-19 in the second half with a stellar shooting percentage of 54.2 percent and five made shots from long range to take the win.
“I thought we played a really good second half,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Obviously we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half but defensively we were much better in the second half. Offensively we executed much better in the second half and played a way that fit the normal FGCU style of play. It was a tight game going into the last four minutes and it was nice to see [Stephanie] Haas and [Whitney] Knight make some big baskets for us. We had a lot of players step up and make great plays in that time.”
Sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) led the Eagles’ comeback with 12 points on four 3-pointers and a team-high 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Knight also added a season-high five blocks in 30 minutes of action.
Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School) paced the Eagles offensively with a career-high 22 points, while senior Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) contributed 13 points in the come-from behind win. Haas also led the team and tied her career-high with four assists.
As a unit, the Eagles shot 41.5 percent on the night, while holding the Bulls to a mark of 32.3 percent from the field. The team converted 8-of-19 shots from beyond-the-arc and went 8-for-14 from the free-throw line. The Bulls held the advantage on the glass by outrebounding FGCU 43-35 and scored 20 second-chance points. The Eagles led the turnover battle with a slight 12-11 advantage.
Haas began the contest with a drive to the basket and a layup but the Eagles saw as USF’s heavy defensive pressure stopped their offensive attack. The Bulls took a 15-9 lead early in the contest by stopping eight-straight field goal attempts by the Eagles.
FGCU cut the deficit to single digits on several occasions but allowed the Bulls to produce a 13-2 run late in the half to extend their lead to a game-high 16 points. Baskets from Atwater, Hansen and Haas cut the score to 34-25 in the final minute of play but USF increased its lead again with one final layup as the period closed to bring the halftime score to 36-25.
The Eagles shot just 31 percent in the first half, while allowing the Bulls to convert 43.8 percent of shots.
A made 3-pointer from Knight started the second half and swung the momentum in FGCU’s favor. The Eagles sparked a 14-3 run that included baskets from Haas, Hansen and Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westover High School/VCU) and tied the game at 39 with 14 minutes to play.
The Eagles reclaimed the lead with two made free throws by Jaime Gluesing (Solon, Ohio/Solon High School) with 12:41 left on the clock and used four-straight points by Haas to maintain the advantage midway through the half.
After another made 3-point shot from Knight gave the Eagles a 50-46 lead, the visiting team responded with two-quick layups and a free throw by Alisia Jenkins to take back the lead at 51-50 with 3:48 left to play.
Haas drove to the basket for layups on two-consecutive possessions to help FGCU reclaim the advantage at 54-51 lead with 2:40 remaining before a missed 3-pointer by USF enabled the Eagles to extend the lead when Knight sank a 3-point shot from the corner with just under two minutes to play.
One minute later, Atwater gave the Eagles their largest lead of the contest with a layup, bringing the score to 59-51 with 46 seconds to play.
The teams exchanged free throws in the final 20 seconds before USF added one final bucket as time expired to cut the Eagles’ advantage to five points. The final push was not enough to alter the game’s ending as the home team picked up the 60-55 win to remain undefeated at Alico Arena this season.
After defeating South Dakota State last week, Wednesday’s win was the Eagles’ second-consecutive victory over a team who appeared in last season’s NCAA tournament. The win avenged the Green and Blue’s 67-46 loss at USF a season ago.
The Eagles will break for 13 days to wrap up the fall semester before travelling to take on no. 13/14 LSU on Tuesday, Dec. 17. Tipoff in Baton Rouge, La. is slated for 8 p.m. EST.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the women’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_WBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUWBB.
2013-14 women’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.