FLORIDA GULF COAST
3/1/2014 | Alico Arena - Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 1795
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||29||38||67|
|Stats at a Glance||NKU||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.389
FORT MYERS, Fla. – In its final home game of the regular season, the FGCU women’s basketball team earned a 67-53 victory over Northern Kentucky Saturday night at Alico Arena. With the win, the Eagles improve to 22-7 on the season with a 16-1 mark in Atlantic Sun action, while the Norse fall to 15-12 and 11-5 in conference play.
The win keeps FGCU atop the Atlantic Sun standings, tied with Stetson University and ensures that the winner of next weekend’s Stetson-FGCU matchup will earn sole possession of the regular-season Atlantic Sun Championship. Each team sits with just one conference loss after the Eagles defeated Stetson to begin the season but fell to Northern Kentucky earlier in the year.
“I want to give credit to Northern Kentucky,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “They’re very tough, they’re psychical and I thought they guarded us very well. They made things very difficult for us but I’m proud of our team that we hung in there and were able to make enough plays in the last ten minutes to be able to win the game.”
The home team struggled with a slow start and fell behind early on with a six-point deficit. The Eagles never allowed the Norse to take complete control of the game but trailed the visiting team by one point at halftime. FGCU produced a 17-2 run in the second half to take hold of the momentum and ultimately earned a 14-point victory.
Sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) led the Eagles with 17 points on the night, while senior captain Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds in her final regular season game at Alico Arena. Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School) and Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School/Butler) also added double figures for the Green and Blue with 14 and 10 points, respectively. The offensive production was the fourth time in seven games that the Eagles saw four double-digit performers.
As a unit, the Eagles shot 42 percent from the field and made 9-of-28 shots from the perimeter. FGCU made 16-of-22 free throws including 8-of-8 shots from the charity stripe in the final minute of action. The Green and Blue held Northern Kentucky to a 36 percent success rate from the floor and forced 15 NKU turnovers. The teams each grabbed 36 rebounds.
With a slow start for the Eagles, NKU took a quick 9-3 lead in the first four minutes of the game. A 3-point shot from Hansen cut the deficit to three points and caused the home crowd to erupt in applause for the senior. After an NKU free-throw extended the lead to 10-6, Haas scored four quick points on layups to tie the game at 10.
The Norse produced a five-point run to reclaim the lead but the Eagles responded with six-consecutive points to take back control. The home team extended its lead to 20-15 on a 10-point run midway through the first half and held onto a slight advantage through the majority of the remaining minutes.
A seven-point run in the last five minutes gave the Norse back the advantage, which they maintained through the end of the half. A Knight 3-pointer cut the lead to just one point so that the visiting team held a 30-29 advantage at the break.
The Norse opened the second half with a layup before Cobb tied the game at 32 on a 3-point shot from the top of the arc. FGCU and NKU went on to trade baskets for several possessions and again tie the score at 42 with 12 minutes left to play.
After a Hansen layup tied the score again, Knight and Jaime Gluesing (Solon, Ohio/Solon High School) connected on back-to-back long-range shots to put the Eagles ahead 48-42 at the midpoint of the half. Another 3-pointer from Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westwood High School/VCU) extended the Eagles’ run to 11-2 and gave the home team a nine-point lead. A Norse layup cut the run but the Eagles quickly added points from Haas, Cobb and DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School). A layup from Cobb with five minutes to play gave the Eagles their largest lead of the game at 58-44.
Two turnovers and two missed shots from FGCU enabled the Norse to cut the score differential to just eight points with 1:10 on the clock, but the Eagles sank a perfect 8-of-8 shots from the free-throw line in the remaining time to seal the victory.
The win marked the third time this season that the Eagles came back for a victory after trailing at halftime.
The Eagles will conclude the regular season with a matchup at in-state rival Stetson University on Saturday, March 8 in DeLand, Fla. The winner of the afternoon contest will earn the Atlantic Sun regular season crown, a mark the Eagles have held for the last three seasons.
Following Saturday’s matchup, the Eagles will host the first round of the Atlantic Sun Championship on Tuesday, March 11 at Alico Arena. The team’s seeding and opponent will be determined by the league’s final day of action next week.
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