Avenging its regular-season finale loss to Stetson that gave the Hatters the ASUN regular-season crown, the No.2 FGCU women’s basketball team defeated No.1 Stetson 77-70 to claim the ASUN Women’s Basketball Championship crown.
Despite the Hatters shooting 11-16 from long range in a game that saw nine lead changes, the Eagles rode a strong performance from China Dow to outlast Stetson and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
With the men taking on FSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 16, this is the first time in FGCU history that the men’s and women’s basketball teams booked trips to the NCAA tournament in the same season.
“This was just a great college basketball game with a great environment here at Stetson,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “I thought Stetson played great. We were just trying to hang around. They were 8-10 from three in the first half. We made some defensive mistakes leaving our shooters, and they made us pay. We just had to keep fighting. Then in the fourth quarter we just hit one roll, one little hot-streak, and it kind of put us over the hump. Jordin (Alexander), Rose (Julien) and China’s (Dow) last five-minute stretch was pretty amazing.”
Overcoming a nine-point deficit, thanks to an 8-2 run by the Hatters in the fourth quarter, a midrange jumper and four-point swing by Jordin Alexander brought the Eagles within three.
Knocking down a pair of free throws and her third three of the game, China Dow capped off the Eagles 11-0 run to give FGCU a two-point lead.
With 1:38 remaining in the fourth, Dow knocked down her third three of the night to give the Eagles their first two-possession lead for the first time since the second quarter of action.
Up 71-68, Dow powered through the lane and got a layup to push the Eagles lead back to five. Following a much needed stop on defense with 35 seconds remaining, Haley Laughter and Alexander put the final nail in the coffin with perfect trips to the free-throw line.
“When you’re down like we were today, you know your back is against the wall and you’re going to fight,” Smesko said to FGCU Athletics. “If you can just hit a couple baskets, all of a sudden you feel momentum, and you’re like, ‘I’ve got a chance again.’ It brings you off the mat and gets you ready to finish things off. I’m proud of them for fighting and trying to get back in the game and finishing it off. It was a lot of people making a lot of big plays.”
Scoring ten of her 31 points in final five minutes of the fourth quarter, Dow earned a spot on the All-Tournament team and ASUN Tournament MVP honors. Playing just 25 minutes, Dow added 10 rebounds to her career-high 31 points for her first career double-double. Helping the Eagles’ bench outscore the Hatters’ bench 43-34, Dow went 11-18 from the field and 4-5 from long range.
Joining Dow on the All-Tournament team, Tytiona Adderly finished with six points and eight rebounds, while Alexander rounded out the Eagles’ All-Tournament selections. Leaving the game early with a shoulder injury, Alexander finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
With the NCAA announcing the tournament bracket on Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m., FGCU will hold a Selection Show viewing party at Alico Arena with doors opening at 6 p.m.