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@FGCU_WBB Set to Defend Conference Championship Saturday at Stetson
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||30||36||8||74|
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||STET|
|FG Percentage||.333 (25-75)||.455 (25-55)|
|3P FG Percentage||.333 (15-45)||.529 (9-17)|
|FT Percentage||.643 (9-14)||.667 (14-21)|
PORTER - 10
SHARP - 10
KNIGHT - 3
COBB - 3
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s basketball team will vie for its fourth-straight Atlantic Sun title Saturday afternoon when the Eagles take on Stetson University in the final game of the conference season. As each team holds just one loss in conference play, the winner of the afternoon tilt will earn the A-Sun Regular Season Conference Champion crown and the no. 1 seed in the A-Sun Tournament. Tipoff at the Edmunds Center is scheduled for 1 p.m.
HOW TO FOLLOW
The game can be viewed live on ASun.TV free of charge but Eagle fans looking for a familiar voice can tune in to FGCUAthletics.com where J. Webb Horton and Tom James will have the radio broadcast. Fans can also find live in-game updates via twitter (@FGCU_WBB) and through live stats available at GoHatters.com.
THE GREEN & BLUE
After earning a win over Northern Kentucky in the final home game of the regular season, the Eagles maintain a first-place standing with a record of 16-1 in conference play. The Green and Blue hold an overall record of 22-7 with an eight-game win streak.
The Eagles have scored 69.7 points per game this season, while holding opponents at 59.3 points scored per contest for an A-Sun best points allowed. In conference play, FGCU has outscored the opposition by a margin of 18.6 points through 17 games and has held foes to an average of 53.8 points per game.
Eagle opponents have held a rebounding advantage through 29 games this season with a 38.9 to 34.9 average but FGCU has maintained control of the ball with just 12.7 turnovers in conference play, while forcing 18.1 miscues per game. The team maintains a turnover margin of +4.48 to rank among the top seven percent of Division I teams.
Offensively, FGCU has recorded a shooting percentage of 41.3 this season with a clip of 34.6 percent from the perimeter. The team has made a combined 290 shots from long range, with an average of 10 per game to rank second among the nation’s 349 teams.
The Eagles boast three double-digit producers in senior Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) and sophomores Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) and Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School). All three players rank among the top-20 scorers in the conference, while five others contribute at least three points per game for an all-around effort in each game.
Hansen sits atop of the team rankings with an average of 13.9 points per game. The senior captain also leads the squad with 7.2 rebounds per game and ranks fourth in the league with a team-high 58 steals on the season. Hansen has averaged over 15 points per game in the last month and has increased her career total to 1,842 points.
Knight adds 12.5 points per game and leads the team with 80 blocks on the year for a new single-season FGCU record. Knight ranks among the top-20 nationally with 2.79 blocks per game and leads the Eagles and the conference with 71 made shots from the perimeter.
Haas has continued to add to the Eagles’ offense this year and is currently averaging 11.6 points per contest, while transfers Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westover High School) and Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School) round out the Eagles’ top point producers with 7.7 and 7.6 points per game, respectively. Cobb has added 70 assists on the year and has been a tremendous force on defense for the Eagles with 50 steals.
Sophomore DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School) entered the Eagles’ starting lineup in January and has added 7.8 points per game in conference action. Dunson has also contributed 88 assists on the season with 82 of those in conference action and currently ranks 14th in the nation with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.84.
LAST TIME OUT
In its final home game of the regular season, the team earned a 67-53 victory over Northern Kentucky last weekend at Alico Arena.
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.
Knight led the Eagles with 17 points on the night, while Hansen recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds in her final regular season game at Alico Arena. Haas and Cobb 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.
The Eagles and Hatters have met 15 times in a competitive rivalry. The Eagles have won on 12 occasions, including a 72-56 victory at Alico Arena earlier this season. FGCU held a six-game win streak before falling to Stetson in last year’s A-Sun Conference Championship game and will be looking to begin another win streak. The Eagles have outscored Stetson by an average of 67 to 55 points per game.
LAST TIME AGAINST THE HATTERS
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Eagles outscored Stetson University 44-21 in the second half to defeat the Hatters 72-56 to begin the conference season.
Stetson took control of the game with a quick 4-0 lead to begin the contest and extended its advantage to 10 points just eight minutes into the first half. The Hatters maintained the momentum through the half and went into the break with a 35-28 lead. After seeing Stetson extend the lead to nine points to start the second half, the Eagles constructed a 14-0 run to claim the lead. The Green and Blue held onto the lead and extended it to a game-high 17 points en route to its first A-Sun victory of the year.
The win in the conference opener marked the sixth-consecutive year the Eagles open the season with a 1-0 record.
Individually, the Eagles saw seven season highs on the night. Knight all scorers with 20 points, while Hansen 18 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for her second double-double of the year. Atwater produced a season-high 15 points and pulled down a career-best nine rebounds, while also recording a season-high four steals.
Collectively, the Eagles narrowly outshot the Hatters, 36.8 percent to 35.6 percent but were edged on the glass, 41-36. FGCU made 11 3-point attempts, while holding Stetson to just two and maintained a season-high shooting percentage from the free-throw line at 86.4 percent. The Eagles’ edge was aided in part by 24 points on 21 Stetson turnovers and a season-best 18 second-chance points.
SCOUTING THE HOME TEAM
- After defeating the Eagles in the Atlantic Sun Championship game and earning a trip to the NCAA tournament, the Hatters of Stetson began the 2013-14 campaign with a nonconference record of 8-4. The team lost to the Eagles to open conference play but has since won 16-straight games to hold a tie at the top of the conference standings with FGCU. The Hatters are 13-0 at the Edmunds Center this season and lost just one game – to FGCU – at home last year.
- As a team, Stetson has recorded 90 points or more on eight occasions and averages 80.8 points per game to lead the conference in scoring offense. The Hatters have allowed opponents to score 66.3 points per contest.
- With help from two players shooting over 50 percent, the team has maintained a league-high shooting percentage of 46.8 percent through 29 games and has out-rebounded foes by an average of 4.7 boards per game. The Hatters have converted 35.5 percent of 3-point attempts this season and lead the conference in several categories including field-goal percentage defense, free-throw percentage, scoring margin, 3-point percentage defense and win/loss percentage.
- The team returns four players, including two starters, from last season’s team that went 24-9. Senior Sasha Sims leads the team with 14.7 points per game and has shot 48 percent from the field this season. Sims was a unanimous selection for the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team. Four others add double-figure points for the Hatters with rookie Amber Porter leading the rebounding effort with 8.0 rebounds per game. She also leads the team and the conference with 104 blocks per game, while junior Jama Sharp rounds out the team with 162 assists and 69 steals this season. Porter and fellow rookie Brianti Saunders recently swept the A-Sun weekly awards.
- Although the Hatters have won two Conference Tournament Championships in the last three years, Stetson has never captured the regular-season title despite being a member of the Atlantic Sun since the 2001-02 season.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
A win over Stetson would not only give the Eagles their fourth-straight Atlantic Sun regular season championship but it would also ensure home-court advantage for FGCU through the Atlantic Sun Championship. After Tuesday’s quarterfinal game, the top remaining seed will host the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament.
With a win, the Eagles would capture the no. 1 seed and would face no. 8 Lipscomb on Tuesday. If the Eagles fall to Stetson they will face no. 7 Kennesaw State at Alico Arena on Tuesday and would only host the final games with a first-round loss by Stetson. FGCU is 4-0 against Lipscomb and Kennesaw State this year and has held an average margin of victory of over 24 points against the pair.
Although the final seeds will not be set until Saturday evening, tournament field is set. FGCU, Stetson, USC Upstate, Mercer, Jacksonville, ETSU, Kennesaw State and Lipscomb will all compete for the 2014 A-Sun Championship next week.
The Eagles are 8-0 against Sunshine State opponents this season. FGCU earned wins over FIU, Bethune-Cookman and USF in nonconference action and has since defeated Stetson, Jacksonville and UNF in A-Sun action. Wins a second time around against JU and North Florida increased the record to 8-0.
SINCE THE LOSS
After compiling a 44-game win streak in regular season Atlantic Sun action that spanned 1,067 days, the Eagles were defeated at Northern Kentucky a month ago. However, since the loss, the Eagles have produced eight wins by an average margin of 26 points including a 108-67 victory over Lipscomb for the Eagles’ highest point total in an Atlantic Sun game. The team has shot 47 percent from the field with a 38.5 percent clip from 3-point range and has averaged 79.8 points per game since falling in Highland Heights. The team has also forced 17.8 opponent turnovers, while recording just 11 miscues per game and has grabbed 10.8 steals. FGCU has outrebounded foes in five of those games and has seen Hansen, Haas, Dunson, Cobb and Knight all produce an average of over nine points per game. In their most recent game, the Eagles defeated NKU 67-53 to avenge the only blemish on an otherwise perfect conference season.
Backed by a 3-point shooting mark of 34.6 percent, the Eagles have made an average of 10 long-range shots per game this season. The tally ranks the Eagles second among the nation’s 349 times, behind only Sacramento State, who has tallied 12.6 3-pointers a game this season. Sacramento State is currently on pace to set the NCAA record for 3-point average, previously set by the Eagles in 2012.
Of the Eagles’ 2,020 points scored this season, 43 percent have been scored from distance.
The Green and Blue have a strong history in 3-point shooting, as the Eagles have made 3,327 shots from beyond-the-arc in just 12 years. The team has also made a 3-pointer in 371 of the team’s 373 games and is currently riding a 259 game streak with at least one shot made from the perimeter.
The Eagles currently hold three NCAA records for 3-point shooting including single game (22 made at ETSU last season), single season (342 made in 2012) and average shots made per game (10.7 in 2012).
Individually, 2012 graduate Kelsey Jacobson sits alone as the A-Sun’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers with 330 made in just three seasons.
Smesko’s game preparation is one of the most crucial factors in the Eagles’ all-time success. This season, the team is 13-2 in games when they have had four or more days to prepare. In 12 seasons, Smesko holds a record of 107-20 in games with that much time for preparing for a win percentage of 84 percent. For Saturday’s game, Smesko had six days to prepare.
The Eagle reserves have averaged just 16.5 points per game this season. However, since the beginning of February, the team has increased the bench production to 30 points per game including a season-high 40 points off the bench in the win over Lipscomb.
In her final year as an Eagle, Hansen is ensuring her mark will be left at FGCU. The senior currently holds 11 all-time program records including the top marks in points, rebounds, steals and games started. She most recently set the mark for most minutes played by an FGCU player and has currently seen 3,718 minutes on the court for FGCU. In 127 games, Hansen has averaged 29.4 minutes per game.
Among Atlantic Sun competitors, Hansen now ranks eighth in career points with 1,842 and sits just 50 points from taking over the seventh position. Hansen also ranks among the top 20 producers in rebounds for the Atlantic Sun. With 852 boards, Hansen needs just 19 rebounds to take over the 18th position.
On the heels of two perfect Atlantic Sun seasons, the FGCU women’s basketball team was predicted to continue its success as the preseason favorite in both the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll and the A-Sun Media poll.
It was the fifth-consecutive year that the Eagles’ earned the league’s top vote after winning the A-Sun regular season in four of the last five seasons.
Despite just a 12-year presence, the FGCU women’s basketball team boasts a rich history. Led by 12th-year Head Coach Karl Smesko, the Eagles have produced a program record of 310-63 for a remarkable win percentage of 83 percent. Smesko has produced ten 20-win seasons since the program’s inception with two seasons that eclipsed the 30-win mark.
After playing for the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2007, the team joined the Division I ranks for the 2007-08 season. In their first year of Division I play, the Eagles won 29 games for the fourth most in NCAA history, while producing the third-highest winning percentage of a first-year team at 90.6. After a four-year transition period, the Eagles made the NCAA Tournament in their first year of postseason eligibility. Since making the transition to DI, the Eagles have compiled a record of 174-42 and have finished atop the Atlantic Sun standings four times in five years. In the last three seasons, the Eagles have lost just one Atlantic Sun game.
The Eagles will host the first round of the Atlantic Sun Tournament on Tuesday, March 11 at Alico Arena. The Eagles’ seed and opponent will be dependent on Saturday’s results.
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 conference tournament 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.