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Dancing Again: @FGCU_WBB Wins A-Sun Title, Heads Back To NCAA Tournament
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||27||33||12||72|
|Stats at a Glance||STET||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.426 (26-61)||.429 (24-56)|
|3P FG Percentage||.381 (8-21)||.344 (11-32)|
|FT Percentage||.769 (10-13)||.650 (13-20)|
SIMS - 3
CODDINGTON - 1
SAUNDERS - 1
PORTER - 1
FORT MYERS, Fla. – For the second time in three seasons, the FGCU women's basketball team is heading back to the NCAA Tournament after earning a thrilling 72-70 overtime victory against Stetson Sunday afternoon in the Atlantic Sun Championship title game at Alico Arena. With the win, the Eagles move to 26-7 on the season, while Stetson falls to 26-7.
After trailing by three at halftime and falling behind by nine early in the second half, the Eagles stormed back to outscore the Hatters 28-12 over a period of 10 to reclaim the momentum. The home team took a seven-point lead with seven minutes to play but saw as the Hatters tied the game at 60 in the final 10 seconds of regulation. The Eagles jumped ahead 68-61 in the opening minutes of overtime before Stetson sank two jumpers and two free throws to cut the deficit to three points with 25 seconds to play. Made free throws from Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westover High School), Amanda Moore (Seymour, Ind./Seymour High School) and Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) sealed the win for FGCU as the Eagles earned the two-point victory.
“I am so proud of our team in the way that they were able to pull out this game, keep their composure and play so well during the overtime period” explained head coach Karl Smesko. “Stetson is the best Atlantic Sun team that we’ve faced since we’ve been in the A-Sun. Just like a week ago, it was two really good teams playing really good basketball and we feel fortunate to win and to get the automatic bid to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.”
Junior Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School/Butler) paced FGCU with a game-high 19 points on five 3-pointers, while Atwater produced her first double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Hansen added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, who defeated the Hatters for the third time this season. The trio each earned a position on the Atlantic Sun All-Tournament with Cobb receiving the MVP nod in her first A-Sun Tournament after transferring from Butler last season.
Collectively, the Eagles outrebounded the league’s top rebounding team 37-34 and outshot the Hatters by a slight margin at 42.9 to 42.6 percent. In the overtime period, the Eagles converted 75 percent of shots from the field and made 6-of-9 shots from the free-throw line, while holding Stetson to just 33 percent.
The teams battled for the edge in the first half and exchanged the lead six times, with neither team ever holding more than a six-point lead.
Stetson went into the break with a 31-27 lead and quickly extended its lead to nine points in the opening minutes of the second half. A long-range shot from sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) cut the Hatter momentum at the 18-minute mark and was followed with another 3-pointer from Cobb. Capped by a bank-shot 3-pointer from Hansen, the Eagles used a 16-8 run to cut the deficit to just one point with 13 minutes left to play.
A layup from Knight helped the Eagles reclaim the lead at 45-44 with 12:26 on the clock. After a Stetson free throw tied the game at 45, Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School), Atwater and Jaime Gluesing (Solon, Ohio/Solon High School) combined for an eight-point run to capture the game’s momentum.
The Hatters battled back but the Eagles maintained a six-point lead through the final two minutes of action. With 1:09 left to play, the Hatters drew a foul and sank two free throws to cut the deficit to four points. An FGCU turnover with 49 seconds on the clock made way for the Hatters to add two points and bring the score to 60-58 in the final 35 seconds before one final defensive rebound and Stetson layup tied the bout at 60 with nine ticks on the clock. After two FGCU timeouts, the Eagles inbounded the ball with 4.2 seconds to play. Hansen got a shot off at the buzzer but it fell just wide to send the game into overtime.
Haas opened the overtime period with a layup for FGCU before the Hatters added one point on a free throw. DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School) extended the lead to three points with a layup, while Atwater added three more points to finish a seven-point run and put the Eagles ahead 68-61 with 1:50 remaining in overtime. In the final minute, Stetson senior Sasha Sims cut the score to 68-62 on a jumper and added two more points on successful free throws with 25 seconds on the clock.
Atwater moved the ball up the court for FGCU to cut five seconds off the clock but was fouled with 20 seconds remaining. She made one shot to give FGCU a 69-65 advantage but the Hatters quickly responded by driving to the basket for a layup. After a Stetson timeout at 14.4 seconds, Moore entered the game for the first time and dribbled another five seconds off the clock before getting fouled with 8.9 left. The sophomore sank two free throws to move the FGCU lead to four points with fewer than 10 seconds remaining for Stetson.
The Hatters moved quickly down the floor and sank their eighth 3-pointer of the night with six seconds left but Hansen reentered the game and was immediately sent to the foul line. With three seconds on the clock, the senior captain made one free throw to bring the score to 72-70. The Hatters attempted a long-range shot at the buzzer but ran out of time to hand the Eagles their second Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
FGCU advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2012 as a No. 12 seed and will learn its tournament destination and opponent for this year’s tournament on Monday, Mar. 17 at 7 p.m. Fans are encouraged to join the team at Alico Arena for a Selection Show Viewing Party. The doors will open at 6 p.m. with the event scheduled to begin at 6:30. The live show will begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN and will feature live action shots from Alico Arena.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the women’s basketball program and the NCAA Tournament, follow @FGCU_WBB on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUWBB.