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No. 12 @FGCU_WBB Ready to Dance with No. 5 Oklahoma State
|FLORIDA GULF COAST||28||29||3||60|
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||OSU|
|FG Percentage||.338 (22-65)||.369 (24-65)|
|3P FG Percentage||.241 (7-29)||.273 (6-22)|
|FT Percentage||.563 (9-16)||.500 (7-14)|
DUNSON - 4
KNIGHT - 3
Donohoe - 2
Suttles - 2
Martin - 2
Martin - 1
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Looking for the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win, the no. 12 FGCU women’s basketball team will take on no. 5 Oklahoma State Saturday morning at Mackey Arena on the campus of Purdue University. Tipoff in the tournament’s first scheduled game is set for 11 a.m.
SETTING THE STAGE
The Eagles return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in just three years of postseason eligibility. The team earned its fourth-consecutive Atlantic Sun regular-season title and went on to win the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State earned at at-large bid after finishing the season at 23-8 and losing to Baylor in the Big 12 semifinal game.
“We're really excited to be here,” said head coach Karl Smesko of the team’s second trip to the Big Dance. “Our goal all season long was to make it to the NCAA Tournament, and we had to win a couple last-second games or overtime games to put us in this position. But we're excited about the opportunity and we're trying to be as prepared as we can to be competitive and to give us the best opportunity to win.”
HOW TO FOLLOW
The game can be viewed live on ESPN2 regionally with Melissa Lee and Jimmy Dykes on the call. Those outside of the region can watch the game on ESPN3 free of charge. Fans can also follow in-game updates via twitter (@FGCU_WBB) and through live stats available at FGCUAthletics.com.
- Prior to defeating Stetson in the A-Sun Final, the Eagles earned their 4th-straight regular season title. #Back2Back2Back2Back
- The Eagles have sank 340 3s so far this season. With 10 more, they break their program record for a single season. #RainingThrees
- As a unit, the Eagles have set a new program record with 139 blocks on the season thus far, surpassing the 2002-03 team that swatted 125 shots.
- FGCU currently ranks second in the nation with 10.3 shots made from the perimeter per game. #RainingThrees
- For the 4th-straight year Coach Smesko was named the #ASunWBB Coach of the Year, while Hansen picked up Player of the Year honors for the 2nd year in a row.
THE GREEN & BLUE
After earning a win over Northern Kentucky in the final home game of the regular season, the Eagles traveled to Stetson where they secured the regular-season championship with a 74-73 overtime win over their in-state rival. The team wrapped up the regular season with a record of 23-7 and a conference mark of 17-1 and went 3-0 in the Atlantic Sun Championship with another win over Stetson to earn their second conference title in three years.
The Eagles have scored 70.4 points per game this season, while holding opponents at 59.5 points scored per contest for an A-Sun best points allowed. In conference play, FGCU outscored the opposition by a margin of 18.6 points in 18 games and held foes to an average of 53.8 points per game.
Eagle opponents have held a rebounding advantage through 33 games this season with a 39.1 to 35.3 average but FGCU has maintained control of the ball with just 13.3 turnovers, while forcing 17.8 miscues per game. The team maintains a turnover margin of +4.5 to rank among the top seven percent of Division I teams.
Offensively, FGCU has recorded a shooting percentage of 41.4 this season with a clip of 35 percent from the perimeter. The team has made a combined 340 shots from long range, with an average of 10.3 per game to rank second among the nation’s 349 teams. With 10 more buckets from beyond-the-arc, the Eagles will set a new program record and break the Atlantic Sun record for made long-range shots in a season. The Eagles previously held the NCAA record for 3-pointers made in a single season with 342 but saw as Sacramento State set a new mark with 373 made threes this season.
The Eagles boast three double-digit producers in senior Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) and sophomores Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) and Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat High School). All three players rank among the top-20 scorers in the conference, while five others contribute at least three points per game for an all-around effort in each game.
Hansen sits atop of the team rankings with an average of 13.8 points per game. The senior captain also leads the squad with 7.1 rebounds per game and ranks fourth in the league with a team-high 63 steals on the season. Hansen has averaged over 15 points per game in the last month and has increased her career total to 1,894 points.
Knight adds 12.3 points per game and leads the team with 90 blocks on the year for a new single-season FGCU record. Knight ranks among the top-20 nationally with 2.79 blocks per game and leads the Eagles and the conference with 82 made shots from the perimeter.
Haas has continued to add to the Eagles’ offense this year and is currently averaging 11.5 points per contest, while transfers Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westover High School) and Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School) round out the Eagles’ top point producers with 8.4 and 7.7 points per game, respectively. Cobb has added 80 assists on the year and has been a tremendous force on defense for the Eagles with 57 steals.
The transfer duo led the team through the Atlantic Sun Championship and both earned positions on the All-Tournament Team. Cobb was named MVP after scoring a combined 41 points in the semifinal and final games.
Sophomore DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School) entered the Eagles’ starting lineup in January and has added 5.3 points per game. Dunson has also contributed 106 assists on the season with 96 of those in conference action and currently ranks 18th in the nation with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.71.
SCOUTING NO. 5
- No. 5 Oklahoma State enters the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a record of 23-8 after finishing the Big 12 season with a mark of 11-7 and a fourth-place finish. The team fell to Baylor in the conference semifinal and has lost seven of its last 13 games.
- As a unit, Oklahoma State averages 70.9 points per game, while holding opponents to 59.7 points per contest. The team shoots 42.5 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from 3-point range, while holding opponents among the nation’s top-10 in 3-point percentage defense at 26.7 percent. The Cowgirls pull down 42 rebounds per game, five more than the opposition and dish out 13.8 assists with 14 turnovers per game.
- Although the Eagles and Cowgirls never met, the teams have faced two similar opponents this season in USF and TCU. Both teams earned wins over USF, while the Eagles struggled offensively when facing TCU over Thanksgiving Break. The Cowgirls earned two Big 12 wins over the Horned Frogs this season, once by 12 points and once by just one point.
- Individually, the Eagles are led by one of the Big 12’s best point guards in senior Tiffany Bias. Bias leads the team with 14.2 points per game, while adding 185 assists on the year and 68 steals. The First Team All-Conference guard shoots just under 40 percent from the field and plays an average of 36.6 minutes per contest. Bias’ biggest help comes from sophomore Brittney Martin. Martin adds 11.8 points per game with a team high 8.2 rebounds and a shooting percentage of 44.6 percent. She leads the team and the Big 12 with 74 steals through 31 games and plays and average of 29.5 minutes per contest. Liz Donohoe rounds out the Cowgirls’ double-figure scorers with 11.2 points per game. Donohoe ranks 18 in the Big 12 in point production to help the Cowgirls maintain three positions among the top 20 scorers in the conference.
- In his second season as head coach, Jim Littell has guided the Cowgirls to a record of 45-19 with two NCAA appearances. Last season, OSU defeated DePaul in the first round before falling to Duke to end the season
On the tails of the team’s fourth-straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship, the team earned two of the league’s five major awards, as announced by the conference Monday afternoon. Head coach Karl Smesko earned his fifth Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year award, while Hansen was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the second-straight year and earned a position on the All-Conference First Team for the third-consecutive year. Hansen was the team’s only unanimous selection and sits as only the 10th conference player to ever earn first-team honors for three years. Knight also picked up a First Team All-Conference nod in her first season back from injury.
Hansen also earned a position on the All-Tournament Team with Atwater joining her, while Cobb was named the MVP of the conference tournament.
SINCE THE SETBACK
After compiling a 44-game win streak in regular season Atlantic Sun action that spanned 1,067 days, the Eagles were defeated at Northern Kentucky a month ago. However, since the loss, the Eagles have produced 12 wins by an average margin of 23 points including a 108-67 victory over Lipscomb for the Eagles’ highest point total in an Atlantic Sun game. The team has shot 45 percent from the field with a 38 percent clip from 3-point range and has averaged 79.3 points per game since falling in Highland Heights. The team has also forced 17.6 opponent turnovers, while recording just 11.7 miscues per game and has grabbed 10.4 steals. FGCU has outrebounded foes in six of those games and has seen Hansen, Haas, Dunson, Cobb and Knight all produce an average of over nine points per game. Last month, the Eagles defeated NKU 67-53 to avenge the only blemish on an otherwise perfect conference season.
The Eagles last appeared in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago when the team earned the A-Sun’s automatic bid in its first season with postseason eligibility after transitioning from DII. As the no. 12 seed in 2012, the Eagles faced no. 5 St. Bonaventure on the campus of Florida State.
The Eagles challenged the favored team and produced an 11-point lead late in the second half but saw as it slipped away in the final minutes of regulation. St. Bonaventure tied the game and forced the contest down to the wire.
With 1.1 seconds on the clock, FGCU forced a Bona turnover and reclaimed possession of the ball for the final play but were unable to get the shot off in time. The Eagles ultimately fell to the Bonnies 72-65 in overtime.
Backed by a 3-point shooting mark of 35 percent, the Eagles have made an average of 10.3 long-range shots per game this season. The tally ranks the Eagles second among the nation’s 349 times, behind only Sacramento State, who tallied 12.2 3-pointers a game this season.
Of the Eagles’ 2,186 points scored this season, 43.9 percent have been scored from distance.
The Green and Blue have a strong history in 3-point shooting, as the Eagles have made 3,377 shots from beyond-the-arc in just 12 years. The team has also made a 3-pointer in 375 of the team’s 376 games and is currently riding a 263 game streak with at least one shot made from the perimeter.
Prior to the end of this season, the Eagles held three NCAA records for 3-point shooting including single game (22 made at ETSU last season), single season (342 made in 2012) and average shots made per game (10.7 in 2012). Sacramento State set new marks in single-season and shots per game this year at 273 and 12.3, respectively.
Smesko’s game preparation is one of the most crucial factors in the Eagles’ all-time success. This season, the team is 14-2 in games when they have had four or more days to prepare. In 12 seasons, Smesko holds a record of 108-20 in games with that much time for preparing for a win percentage of 84 percent. Although the team has not played since Sunday, Smesko had four days to prepare for OSU.
In her final year as an Eagle, Hansen is ensuring her mark will be left at FGCU. The senior currently holds 11 all-time program records including the top marks in points, rebounds, steals and games started. She most recently set the mark for most minutes played by an FGCU player and has currently seen 3,831 minutes on the court for FGCU. In 131 games, Hansen has averaged 29.4 minutes per game.
Among Atlantic Sun competitors, Hansen now ranks seventh in career points with 1,894 and sits just 10 points from taking over the sixth position. Hansen also ranks among the top 20 producers in rebounds for the Atlantic Sun. With 878 boards, Hansen needs just eight rebounds to take over the 16th position. Hansen was recently named as an inductee into the FGCU Hall of Fame.
With a win over Oklahoma State, the Eagles will move on to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. The winner of Saturday morning’s game will face the winner of the no. 4 Purdue/no.13 Akron matchup. Purdue is 21-8 on the season and holds a top-20 ranking at no. 17. The Boilermakers finished fourth in the Big Ten but lost to no. 5 Iowa in the second round of the Big Ten Championship. Akron earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance with a 79-68 win over Ball State in the MAC Championship. The Zips are 23-9 this season.
FOR MORE INFO
For all the details on the weekend’s play check out:
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2013-14 women’s basketball conference tournament tickets are still available. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.