With two of the top three teams in the mid-majors in the country squaring off on Friday night at Alico Arena, it was the Eagles who came away with an 87-78 win over South Dakota State.
FGCU controlled most of play, but the Jackrabbits were able to take a four-point lead late in the game. After the Eagles tied it, they were able to make a trio of three pointers, with two coming from China Dow and one from Taylor Gradinjan, resulting in FGCU’s 13th win of the season.
Rosemarie Julien led the Eagles in scoring with 18, and Gradinjan and Dow both finished with 17. Tytionia Adderly and Erica Nelson finished in double figures as well, with Adderly falling a rebound shy of a double-double.
“I thought it was a great basketball game, really exciting,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “It had big runs by both teams. South Dakota State was really impressive. They made us pay for every mistake we made. If we had a miscommunication, the ball got to that miscommunication, and they knocked down shots at a high percentage.”
Both these schools came into the game with only three losses on the season, and early on, the two teams showed why. FGCU started out four of five from distance, and South Dakota State hit three of their first four threes.
Though it was even for a portion of the first quarter, FGCU finished the quarter in front 30-18. This was the fifth time this season that FGCU had a quarter where they scored 30 or more points.
Thirteen minutes into the game, the two teams combined to score 60 points, with the Jackrabbits cutting the deficit to seven. They would get it down to as many as five in the second quarter until both Julien and Jessica Cattani each went on 5-0 runs alone, knocking down a three and a lay-up late in the half, and the Eagles went into the break up 49-41.
W, both teams adjusted defensively in the third quarter, leading to the two teams only scoring 27 points combined throughout the third quarter.
South Dakota State took their first lead of the game by staking advantage over FGCU, who missed their first 11 three-pointers of the second half at 68-64 until Gradinjan ended that drought from her favorite spot to get the Eagles within one. Lisa Zderadicka would eventually get the FGCU even, and the three pointers just kept coming,as FGCU finished the game on a 12-3 run to pickup the win.