FORT MYERS, Fla. – Coming off an NCAA record-setting 2012-13 season, the FGCU women’s basketball team announced its complete 2013-14 non-conference schedule Tuesday, a slate that includes eight games against teams that played in last year’s postseason.
Under the leadership of head coach and four-time Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year Karl Smesko, the Eagles will play 12 non-league games: six at home, three on the road and three in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“This season’s non-conference schedule is very challenging," Smesko said. “We’re facing some very successful teams. It’s important to try and build a competitive schedule to prepare for conference play, and this is exactly what we’ve done.”
The schedule lists the Eagles facing five teams (Stanford, South Dakota State, USF, LSU and Saint Joseph’s) that played in the NCAA Tournament – with Stanford and LSU advancing to the Sweet Sixteen – two teams (FIU and Charlotte) that competed in the Women’s NIT and St. Francis (Pa.), which appeared in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
FGCU will begin its season on Nov. 8 in Miami when it faces FIU on the newly renovated court of US Century Bank Arena. FIU finished 19-13 last year and returns three starters, including Jerica Coley who led the nation in scoring with an average of 26.3 points per game. When the teams met last November the Eagles claimed a 69-45 win.
Returning to Alico Arena for their home opener, the Eagles will take on Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 12, with the unveiling of the men’s team’s Atlantic Sun Championship banner scheduled to take place during halftime. Along with three other starters, B-CU returns team leader Chastity René Taylor who averaged 13.5 points per game last season.
A week later, the Green and Blue remain at home to face Charlotte, which is coming off a 26-6 season and a Third Round appearance in the WNIT. With only two Charlotte starters returning, the Eagles are hoping for redemption after their 79-60 loss to the 49ers last season. The Eagles head back out on the road playing Southern Mississippi on Nov. 23.
In the last week of November the Eagles will head south of the border to Mexico, where they will play in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope against the most challenging team they’re likely to face this season. They begin the tournament on Nov. 26 with a game against TCU, which won nine games last season. The next day, FGCU will be put to the test against notorious Stanford, whose 2012-13 season saw 33 wins and the program’s 26th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The game will be a matchup of the nation’s best 3-point field-goal defensive team in Stanford against the team that has lead the nation in 3-pointers made the past two years. Next, the Eagles face another top opponent in South Dakota State, which finished last season 25-8 after it’s fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
On Dec. 4 the Eagles finally return home to The Nest to host USF. After beating FGCU last year in Tampa, the Bulls went on to finish the season 22-11 after grabbing the program’s first NCAA Tournament win over Texas Tech in a close 71-70 game.
After a two-week break during final exams, the Eagles will head out to the bayou for a rematch against LSU, which they upset, 76-70, last year in Alico Arena. Despite its loss at FGCU, LSU finished last season with an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance and was ranked No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Tigers are returning four starters for 2013-14.
From Dec. 20-21 the Eagles will host St. Francis (Pa.) and Virginia in the 2013 FGCU Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Classic. First the Eagles take on the Red Flash, who were 17-16 last season after making their first trip to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, and this year return two starters. The next day FGCU will host Virginia. The Cavilers return two starters, including Ataira Franklin, who scored a total of 115 points (19.2 ppg) in the final six games of the 2012-13 season.
In their final non-conference game, the Eagles host another 2013 NCAA Tournament team. On Dec. 29 FGCU will host Saint Joseph’s, which returns three starters and finished last year 23-8.
FGCU returns three starters, including reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS), as it aims for its 10th straight season of 21 or more wins. Becoming the first school to go undefeated in A-Sun play in back-to-back seasons, the FGCU women’s basketball team ranked in the top 40 in the country in 13 different statistical categories in the final NCAA rankings of the 2012-13 season.
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