(8-9 | 5-1 A-Sun)
FLORIDA GULF COAST
(12-6 | 6-0 A-Sun)
1/23/2014 | Alico Arena - Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 1814
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||39||17||56|
|Stats at a Glance||JU||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.444
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sparked by 16 points from Whitney Knight, the FGCU women’s basketball team produced an 18-point run in the first half en route to a 56-49 victory over Jacksonville on Thursday night at Alico Arena. With the win, the Eagles remain atop the Atlantic Sun standings with an undefeated record of 6-0 and move to 12-6 overall, while the Dolphins suffer their first league loss and fall to 8-9 on the season.
The win marks the Eagles’ 42nd consecutive Atlantic Sun regular season win and the team’s 40th straight conference win at home. The victory marks the Eagles’ 300th program win in 12 years of action.
After trading the lead seven times in the opening minutes of the contest, the Eagles produced a 20-3 run in a span of just five minutes to close the first half with momentum on their side. Sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) gave the Eagles 18 first-half points and sent the home team into the break with a 39-25 advantage. The Dolphins pressured FGCU in the second half but was unable to cut the deficit to fewer than six points. The Green and Blue held on to the lead to remain the only undefeated team in league action.
“I’d like to complement Jacksonville,” said head coach Karl Smesko of the pivotal win. “They are an aggressive team, they are an attacking team and I thought they played very well. In the second half they kept coming at us but we were able to hold them off and make free throws at the end to get the win.”
Knight led all players with 20 points on the night, 18 of which paced the Eagles in the first half. Knight’s defensive prowess helped the Eagles to the win as she recorded a program-record nine blocks and pulled down eight rebounds. Senior captain Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) added 15 points for FGCU with nine of the Eagles’ 17 second-half points. Hansen also added a team-high nine rebounds.
As a team, the Eagles outshot the Dolphins by converting 34.7 percent of shots and holding the visiting team to 32.7 percent. The Green and Blue made 18-of-25 shots from the free-throw line but just 4-of-16 from beyond-the-arc. Jacksonville out-performed FGCU on the boards with a 42-35 advantage, but turned the ball over 14 times compared to the Eagles’ nine miscues.
The teams opened the game from the charity stripe, with each team scoring its first points on free throws. The Eagles took an early 4-3 lead by sinking all free-throw opportunities and holding JU scoreless from the field.
The Dolphins took a 5-4 lead on their first field goal of the game and went ahead 8-4 on a 3-point shot from the corner. Captain Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School) helped the Green and Blue cut the deficit on two more free throws and reclaimed the lead for FGCU at 9-8 on a traditional 3-point play seven minutes into the contest.
A basket from Katie Meador (Salem, Ill./Salem Community High School) and four more free throws increased the Eagle lead to seven points one minute later but JU was quick to respond. The visiting team constructed a 9-2 run midway through the half to tie the game at 17 before Meador cut the run with another strong layup.
Jacksonville used five-quick points including a made free throw after a layup to take a 22-19 lead with 6:26 remaining in the half.
The Eagles quickly cut the deficit on a layup from Hansen and reclaimed the lead on a shot well beyond-the-arc from Knight. The FGCU defense forced a JU shot clock violation on the next possession and increased its lead to 27-22 on another Knight 3-pointer. After a strong block from Knight, the following possession again resulted in a forced shot clock violation followed by two more points from Knight to put the Eagles ahead 29-22. In front of an electrified crowd, the Eagles continued the run and capped the half with a 20-3 streak. The run included 18-consecutive points and 16 points from Knight alone.
“In the last five minutes of the first half Whitney really got it going and Jacksonville had already used timeouts so it was hard for them,” Smesko continued. It was pretty impressive and getting the big lead was important for us.”
The impressive end to the half gave the home team a 39-25 advantage at the break.
The Dolphins opened the second half with a six-point run before the teams traded baskets so the Eagles could maintain a double-digit lead. After the 16-minute mark, Jacksonville held the Eagles scoreless for a period of five minutes and cut the deficit to six points midway through half.
Hansen cut the scoring drought on a layup with nine minutes to play before a layup by Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westwood High School/VCU) extended the Eagle lead back to 10 points.
The teams traded 3-pointers near the eight-minute mark before slowing the pace and holding the score at 53-43 for several minutes. JU scored four-consecutive points to cut the score to 53-47 in the final minute of action. One layup from JU and three made free throws by FGCU brought the final score to 56-49.
The Eagles will continue Atlantic Sun action Saturday as they host the University of North Florida at Alico Arena with a 7 p.m. tipoff. The matchup will be streamed live on ESPN3 free of charge.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the women’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_WBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUWBB.
2013-14 women’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.