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Preview: Women’s basketball vs. Miami in first round of NCAA Tournament

(EN Photo / Brad Young)

On the eve of winning its fourth ASUN Tournament Championship, the FGCU women’s basketball team earned a 13 seed and will take on No. 4 Miami in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in Coral Gables on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Watsco Center.

“We’re excited that we are playing so close to Fort Myers,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “It makes it really convenient for our fans to get over there and support us and we are excited about the opportunity of playing a really great team in the NCAA tournament.”

Making its fourth NCAA tournament appearance in six seasons, FGCU will face either No. 5 Marquette or No. 12 Quinnipiac.

If the Eagles and Bobcats both overcome their first round opponents, that would set up a rematch of the teams regular season opener where Quinnipiac defeated FGCU 66-56.

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Ranked No. 16 in the nation, the Hurricanes finished seventh in the ACC with a 10-6 record in conference play en route to their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last seven years.

Hosting an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1993 when the higher seed hosted their opponent, the Hurricanes went 23-8 on the year and defeated three top-25 teams.

Before losing to Duke in the ACC Tournament Semifinal 57-52, Miami defeated FSU 56-54. The Hurricanes are 6-1 all-time in Coral Gables in postseason play and 2-0 in the NCAA tournament when at home.

Leading the Hurricanes on offense is All-ACC Second team member Adrienne Motley. In her final season with Miami, Motley averaged 13.7 points and 2.73 assists per game.

Another player to look out for on the Hurricanes is Jessica Thomas. A member of the ACC All-Tournament Second team and All-ACC Academic Team, Thomas averaged 12.7 points and four assists per game.

The first player in FGCU program history to be named the ASUN Newcomer of the Year, Rosemarie Julien leads the way on offense for the Eagles averaging 11.1 points per game.

Another key player to watch is China Dow. Taking home ASUN Tournament MVP Honors and earning a spot on the All-Conference team. Dow scored 31 points in just 25 minutes in the Eagles 77-70 ASUN Tournament Championship victory over Stetson.

“It’s a good experience (NCAA Tournament) especially with this team,” Dow said. “It’s like going into a big dance and we gotta do what we gotta do.”

The last time these two teams met was in the opening round of the WNIT in 2010, where Miami defeated FGCU 70-57.

Overcoming their 2-5 start to the season, the Eagles are winners of 20 of their last 22 games heading into the Big Dance.

FGCU will look to improve its 1-3 all-time record in the NCAA tournament, and spark a Cinderella run out of Coral Gables.

“The NCAA tournament is a goal for everybody who plays college athletics,” Mikala McGhee said. “We’re happy to be here and we are going to do our best.”

NCAA Bracket
(EN Illustration / Audrey Mobley)

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