Eagles earn win in Smesko’s 600th game with FGCU
In his 600th game as head coach of the Eagles, Karl Smesko and his team got revenge on UNF after their loss last week in Jacksonville with a 67-52 win at Alico Arena to remain atop the ASUN standings.
It was an extremely slow start to both the game and the second half as UNF got to its three at one point in the third quarter, but the Eagles made four consecutive threes starting with Gradinjan followed up by Erica Nelson, Lisa Zderadicka and Rosemarie Julien to close out the third quarter on a 14-3 run.
Julien and China Dow combined for 37 points and Zderadicka added 14 off the bench, as the Eagles shot 48 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc in the win.
FGCU also had Tytionia Adderly back for the first time in roughly three games after getting hit in the head vs. Jacksonville and picked up ten rebounds in a little under 30 minutes of action.
“It was obviously a really tough game throughout,” head coach Karl Smesko said. “Our offense and execution weren’t very good in the first half. I thought our defense intensity was better and it gave us a good chance to still have a lead despite not shooting well and not moving the ball well.”
FGCU started the game 0-10 from the field and were scoreless 6:28 into the game, but finally scored their first bucket from China Dow for three, as the Eagles only trailed 6-3. The lid finally seemed to come off the basket late in the first and FGCU managed to take a 10-8 lead into the second quarter on another three from Dow who had 6 points early.
In a much better second quarter, FGCU shot 66.7 from the field and took an eight-point lead into halftime. After scoring 26 last time these two teams met, Keonna Farmer had 10 of the 22 points for the Ospreys and quickly opened the second half with two jumpers to get the UNF within four.
However, the Eagles managed to outscore the Ospreys 37-32 in the second half to earn their 22nd win of the season. Farmer ended the game with 18 to lead the Ospreys for a second time this season versus the Eagles with Tesh Hanson adding 14 as he continued to be one of four coaches to have a 800 winning percentage or better.
Despite this being a tremendous accomplishment for Smesko, as he is just one of four coaches along with Geno Auriemma of UConn, he tries to not get caught up in the numbers.
“I don’t think of it that much,” Smesko said. “It was a nice gesture they did before the game. I didn’t know they were going to do that. I rather not even bring it up. 600 is no different than 601.”
Despite him being a tough coach and demanding excellence according to his players, they do give him a lot more credit than Smesko gives himself.
“It means a lot to be coached by him,” Dow said. “If you got a guy that has this type of record and you can be coached under him. He’s fun and he’s a cool guy. It’s amazing what he had done for this program. You can put him on the top with Geno Auriemma.”
The team will now turn its attention to USC Upstate on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m., as the Eagles look to repeat the performance they had last time these two teams met when FGCU won by 33.