MACON, Ga. - Behind a 17-0 run to open the second half, the No. 28 FGCU women’s basketball team opened its first-ever appearance in the Atlantic Sun Tournament with a 79-63 win over eighth-seeded ETSU in the quarterfinals held Wednesday afternoon at the University Center.
With their 19th straight win, the top-seeded Eagles (27-2) move on to play the winner of fourth-seeded North Florida and fifth-seeded Kennesaw State on Friday, March 2 and noon. It marked the Blue and Green’s sixth straight win over the Lady Bucs (8-22), including three this season.
Redshirt sophomore and A-Sun All-Conference first team choice Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS) led the way for FGCU with her third straight and ninth 20-point game of the season. Hansen poured in a game-high 22 points, highlighted by 14 in the second half, on 9-of-16 from the floor to go along with six rebounds and a career-high four blocks.
The Eagles, who lead the nation in three-point field goals per game (10.8), knocked down 9-of-26 shots from behind the arc and now have 313 triples as a team. FGCU is now just 28 triples away from breaking the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (340), which is currently held by the 2009-10 Morehead St. team.
After getting out-rebounded by a 47-31 margin just five days ago in Johnson City, Tenn. that included 26 ETSU offensive rebounds, FGCU dominated the glass in this meeting. The Eagles finished with a commanding 43-30 advantage on the boards, while limiting the league’s second-best offensive rebounding team (16.7) to just eight second chance boards.
Ranked No. 3 in the CollegInsider.com Mid-Major poll and receiving votes in both national polls, the Green and Blue knocked down a season-high 26 free throws on a season-high 30 attempts (86.7 percent). The FGCU defense stepped up as the Eagles, who lead the conference in scoring defense (53.1 ppg), held the Lady Bucs to 63 points, which marked the 26th time that FGCU has held opponent to 65 points or fewer this season.
Senior Eglah Griffin (Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar HS/Seminole CC) chipped in with 16 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Senior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS) tallied 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Chihil also knocked down 10-of-10 from the charity stripe to set a new career high. Freshman Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds HS) pitched in with 12 points and four boards, while senior Nicoya Jackson (Houston, Texas/Cypress Springs HS/Southwestern Christian) finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
The Lady Bucs raced out to an early 12-8 lead after Maria Bond converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 14:30 on the clock, but the Eagles responded with a 7-2 run to take a 15-14 lead with 11:13 remaining.
Trailing the Lady Bucs 21-20, FGCU got a pair of Hansen free throws and a Griffin triple to open a four-point lead, 25-21. ETSU answered with a 5-0 spurt to regain a one-point lead, 26-25, but the Green and Blue outscored the Lady Bucs 13-8 over the final 4:07 to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
FGCU knocked down 9-of-29 (31 percent) from the field and 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) from behind the arc in the opening period, while ETSU shot 42.4 percent (14-of-33) from the floor and 28.6 percent (2-of-7) from long range.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 17-0 run, highlighted by seven points from Griffin and six from Hansen, to take a commanding 55-34 lead with 15:44 remaining in the game. The Lady Bucs answered with five unanswered points, but the Eagles used an 11-2 spurt over the next three minutes to grab their largest lead of the game (24), 66-42, with less than 12 minutes left in the contest.
The Eagles went on to hold off ETSU, not letting their advantage shrink lower than 16 points, and picked up the program’s first win at the A-Sun Tournament with the 79-63 victory.
The No. 1 seeded Eagles return to the court on Friday, Mar. 2 to face the winner of Thursday's (Mar. 1) quarterfinal contest between No. 4 UNF vs. No. 5 Kennesaw State in the semifinal round of the 2012 Atlantic Sun Tournament. Tip at Mercer’s University Center is set for 12:00 ET and the game can be seen live on Comcast Sports South (CSS) or online at ASun.TV. The game can also be heard live on ESPN 770AM in Fort Myers or online at www.770ESPN.com with David Moulton and Mark Miller on the call.
GAME NOTES FGCU is one win shy of equaling the program Division I record for wins (28), set last season … FGCU has scored 75+ points in a game 16 times this season … the double figure win was FGCU’s 21st … the Eagles are a combined 14-2 in road and neutral games … five different players grabbed 5+ rebounds to help FGCU finish with its third-best rebound margin (+13) … Hansen has scored in double figures 10 straight games and a team-best 22 times on the season … she has a block in eight of the last 11 games … Griffin’s eight rebounds were a season-high and her 16 points marked her 11th double-digit outing … her four offensive rebounds were also a season-best … Chihil has 38 double figure games in her career and is now 19 points short of becoming the fifth player in FGCU history to score 1,000 points … Knight’s has scored in double figures 11 times off the bench … Kennedy now has 80 assists on the season with just 42 turnovers (1.9) … her seven assists are her most since Dec. 30 vs. Alcorn State.