FGCU women’s basketball falls to Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
After making an NCAA tournament appearance for the fourth time in six years, the No. 14 FGCU women’s basketball team fell to No. 3 Miami 62-60 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Coral Gables.
Trailing by as many as 13 points, Taylor Gradinjan shook off a poor shooting performance, knocking down a corner three to tie the game at 60 with 8.6 left seconds left.
Following Gradinjan’s triple, Keyona Hayes hit a layup to give the Hurricanes a two-point lead leaving 1.8 seconds on the clock.
Driving at Gradinjan and knocking her over before making the basket, the officials decided to not blow the whistle despite Hayes’s elbow making contact with Gradinjan.
Attempting to tie the game up and send it to overtime, Jordin Alexander caught the inbound but couldn’t get a shot off after some contact with the defender.
“I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask because I have my perspective and it’s not necessarily objective,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “Usually I watch the game on the way home, but I may wait a couple of days. My assistants want to see it right away and make a judgment, but we were at a position to win the game. It was a tight game and I don’t think you can ever blame a call because there’s a thousand plays within a game.”
Miami’s size played a difference throughout, as the Eagles were up against a team that had eight players six-feet or taller and was able to score inside against an Eagles’ side that’s tallest player was five feet 11 inches tall.
Looking to set up a rematch of their season opener against twelfth-seeded Quinnipiac, the Eagles started off strong defensively as they were able to grab a three-point lead early in the first quarter, but the Hurricanes were able to take a one-point lead after the first quarter.
FGCU struggled to score in the second quarter as Miami went on a 14-2 run to extend their lead, but the Eagles closed the second half on a 7-0 run capped off with a Haley Laughter three pointer to go into the break down 28-22.
“We went into half time and kind of regrouped,” Laughter said. “We just really kept telling each other, ‘one more stop, one more stop, and if we get that one stop, it will start going our way on the offensive end.’”
The Eagles struggled offensively, shooting two for 18 from three, but their defense made up for it, holding Miami to just 35.5 percent from the field to give them a shot in the second half.
After the Eagles picked up four fouls early in the second half, Miami was able to score the first six points of the third quarter.
Despite the Hurricanes taking a 39-30 lead, the Eagles scored five points on one trip down the court after a Jessica Cattani three and a foul after the basket. China Dow capped off the possession with a layup to make it a four-point game.
In the fourth, with just under four minutes remaining in the game, the Eagles’ leading scorer, Rosemarie Julien, fouled out after knocking down a three to tie the game at 51.
After taking a one-point lead, 56-55, with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were unable to close it out as their season came to an end with a 62-60 loss.
“We’re obviously frustrated with how the game ended, but we can’t really base the games off the last two calls,” Gradinjan said. “ We needed to make a couple more plays in the first half say when we weren’t attacking as much.”