FORT MYERS, Fla. – Junior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS) scored a career-high and game-high 22 points as the FGCU women’s basketball team defeated USC Upstate, 70-59, in Atlantic Sun action on Saturday night at Alico Arena.
With the win the Blue and Green move to 18-1 overall (11-1 A-Sun), while the Spartans fall to 12-10 overall (8-5 A-Sun).
The Blue and Green, who lead the nation in three-point field goals per game (10.9), knocked down just six trey balls on the night. FGCU’s defense forced Upstate into 23 turnovers and went on to score 20 points off of the Spartans miscues. USC Upstate’s 59 points mark the 14th time the Eagles, who lead the conference in scoring defense (55.0 ppg), have held an opponent below 60 points this season.
Chihil finished with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including hitting 9-of-12 from the charity stripe. Chihil also added four rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes. Redshirt-freshman Sarah Hansen (Edinboro, Pa./General McLane HS) finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Junior Eglah Griffin (Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar HS/Seminole CC) registered 12 points in 28 minutes of play. Junior Kelsey Jacobson (Barnesville, Minn./Moorhead HS) recorded 11 points and four rebounds.
Chelsea McMillan, one of two Spartans to score in double figures, finished with a team-high 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Eagles opened the game with a 14-6 run, highlighted by six points from Hansen. A jumper from Tee’Ara Copney with 14:16 stopped the FGCU run and cut the Blue and Green’s lead to 14-8.
Trailing 16-8, the Spartans used an 11-1 run to take a 19-17 lead with just over nine minutes left in the opening stanza. Back-to-back layups from Hansen and a bucket from senior Shavonne Butler (New Orleans, La./McDonogh Senior HS/Hill College) gave the Eagles the lead again at 23-19.
Following a free-throw from Christine Nyobe, senior Shannon Murphy (Brighton, Mich./Brighton HS) scored on a layup to extend FGCU’s lead to 25-20 and became just the third player in FGCU women’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Murphy now trails Adrianne McNally (1415) and Katie Schrader (1062) on the all-time scoring list.
After both squads went scoreless for more than three minutes, the Spartans outscored FGCU 8-7 to close out the half as the Blue and Green took a 32-28 lead at the break.
Upstate shot 9-of-25 (38.5 percent) from the field in the first half. FGCU has held the opposition to single-digit first half field goals 11 times during the 2010-11 campaign. The Eagles have outscored their 12 conference opponents 439-300 in the first 20 minutes in 2010-11.
FGCU shot 12-of-31 (41.0 percent) from the floor in the first half, including just 1-of-12 (8.3 percent) from long distance.
The Blue and Green opened the second half with an 11-4 run to grab a 43-32 lead with 17:19 left in regulation. After trading baskets with the Spartans, the Eagles used another run (13-2), highlighted by three-pointers from Jacobson, Griffin and Chihil, to take their largest lead of the game (19 points), 58-39.
Upstate fought back, but the FGCU lead was just too much for the Spartans to overcome as the Eagles went on pick up their 11th conference win (70-59).
The Blue and Green will return to the court on Monday, Feb. 7 when they host the Lady Bucs of ETSU (13-9 overall, 10-3 A-Sun) at Alico Arena for FGCU’s annual "Pink Zone" game, as well as the “Pack the House” and CSS/Atlantic Sun Game of the Week. Tip off is set for 7:05 p.m.