Brittany Brown scored a career-high 25 points in the win
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s basketball team needed two overtimes to advance to the second round of the Women’s NIT, defeating George Washington University 97-94 in front of 2,257 fans at Alico Arena Thursday night. Brittany Brown scored a career-high 25 points, including the final two free throws, to lead the Eagles to the second round of the WNIT for the second straight year. The Eagles will travel up to Tampa on Saturday for a match-up with South Florida, the same team they defeated in the first round of the WNIT last season.
From the onset of the game, it was clear that each team had a distinct advantage over the other: George Washington was a much taller and bigger team, while FGCU was smaller and quicker. Throughout the course of the game, both teams utilized their strengths very well, as GWU outrebounded the Eagles 60-39, while the Eagles racked up twice as many steals (8 to 4) and nearly twice as many three point field goals (13 to 7). One downside to the Colonials’ size advantage was that the referees called more than twice as many fouls on GWU (34 to 16), eventually leading to four GWU players fouling out of the game, while only one Eagle reached four personal fouls.
After the opening minutes were played fairly tight, the game became a game of runs. GWU ran out to a 17-7 lead with an 8-0 run; FGCU responded with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 21-20. With the Colonials leading 34-27, FGCU closed out the first half on a 10-2 run, including a three pointer from Chelsea Lyles with just over three seconds to play in the half, giving FGCU a 37-36 lead at halftime.
In the second half, neither team was able to pull away, with the biggest lead of the half reaching six points. The Eagles actually had a chance to win the game in regulation, but after a layup by Yolanda Lavender made the score 77-75, Shannon Murphy tried to inbound the ball quickly to Kelsey Jacobson. Unfortunately for Murphy, the baseline referee ruled that Murphy never cleared herself out of bounds before inbounding the ball, resulting in a turnover and giving GWU an opportunity to tie the game with just under three seconds to play. The Colonials’ Antelia Parrish took the inbound pass and scored, tying the game at 77 apiece.
In the first overtime, FGCU led for a total of 4:49 out of the 5:00 played. Kelsey Jacobson hit a three with 1:11 left to give the Eagles an 83-80 lead, but she only hit one of two free throws with nine seconds left, leaving the door open for GWU to tie the game. Yolanda Lavender took the inbound pass the length of the court for a layup with just over a second to play, sending the game into a second overtime tied at 84.
Just as they did in the first overtime, FGCU led throughout the second overtime. A free throw from Ivy Abiona gave GWU an 88-87 lead, their only lead in either overtime, but the Eagles came right back with five straight points to take a 92-88 lead. The lead was 95-91 after a pair of Kelsey Jacobson free throws with nine seconds left. Once again, Yolanda Lavender came up big for the Colonials, heaving up a desperation three and connecting with two seconds left, cutting the lead to 95-94. Brittany Brown hit a pair of free throws with just over a second to play, and a three-quarter court shot came up short for GWU, as FGCU escaped with a 97-94 victory.
For George Washington (17-14), Yolanda Lavender led all scorers with 27 points and added nine rebounds and eight assists in 42 minutes. Jessica Adair scored 20 points in addition to blocking a game-high four shots. Ivy Abiona (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Tara Booker (12 points, 10 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles for GWU.
For the Eagles (26-4), Brittany Brown set a new career high with 25 points on 7-10 shooting, as well as 8-10 from the free throw line. Adrianne McNally recorded a double-double, scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Kelsey Jacobson scored 18 points, and Chelsea Lyles and Shannon Murphy each added 12 points, as five Eagles scored in double figures.
With the win, the Eagles advance to the second round of the Women’s NIT, and their next game will be in Tampa at South Florida on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM.