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FGCU women’s basketball rides strong first half to rout NJIT

(EN Photo / Brad Young)

In its final road contest of the regular season, the FGCU women’s basketball rode a strong first-half performance to rout NJIT 77-46.
Knocking down 11 shots from long range, the Eagles held the Highlanders to 13 points in the first two quarters of play.
“I thought we started the game really strong,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said in an FGCU Athletics press release. “We were guarding well, taking smart shots. I thought we had a lot of success early on against their zone. In the second half we didn’t really have that same level of intensity. I give NJIT a lot of credit. They really took advantage of that in the third quarter.”
FGCU’s 16 shots from behind the arc where fueled by three triples from Rosemarie Julien, Taylor Gradinjan, Haley Laughter and Jessica Cattani, while eight different Eagles made at least one shot from long range.
Leading a quartet of double-figure scorers for the Eagles, Julien finished with 15 points on 6-12 shooting from the clip, while grabbing two offensive and two defensive rebounds.
Scoring 11 points apiece, Gradinjan and Laughter knocked down a combined six shots from long range as FGCU moved to 12-1 in ASUN play.
Jordin Alexander rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Eagles, finishing with 10 points, three steals and a team-best five assists.
Propelled by Alexander’s three steals, FGCU snagged 14 steals en route to forcing 22 turnovers by NJIT. The Eagles have forced their opponents to turn the ball over 20 or more times in four of their last five contests.
Despite a scoreless two minutes to start the game, Julien took over in the first quarter, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the first quarter while knocking down three triples.
Complementing their five triples in the first quarter, the Eagles forced 12 turnovers while holding NJIT to zero shots from the floor and two free throws, to jump out to a 21-2 lead at the end of the first.
Knocking down a buzzer-beater three to end the first, Gradinjan picked up right where she left off in the second, opening the quarter with her second triple of the night.
Scoring FGCU’s ninth and 10th triples of the night, Cattani and Erica Nelson increased the Eagles’ lead to 32 points.
Despite NJIT sparking a 7-2 run to end the quarter, FGCU held a 27 point, 40-13 lead at the half.
Coming out of the intermission with a 6-2 run, the Highlanders sparked their second six-point run of the quarter to cut their deficit to 22. The Eagles responded with five unanswered points of their own, but NJIT’s Kelly Guarino knocked down the Highlanders’ first triple of the night to spark a seven-point run to end the quarter trailing 54-34.
With its lead cut to 20, FGCU came out of the gate in the final quarter of play with nine straight points. Beginning to mount a comeback with a triple, Samantha Kisiel halted the Highlanders comeback efforts with her first career three.
Closing out the game with a 31-point lead, Tayler Goodall and Cattani knocked down triples before time expired to secure the Eagles 77-46 win.
Tied for first place in the ASUN standings with Stetson at 12-1, FGCU will host the Hatters in its regular-season finale at Alico Arena on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. as they look to win their seventh-straight regular season ASUN title.

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