The FGCU women’s basketball team finished another strong weekend of conference play going 2-0 in Jacksonville and earning season sweeps over the host Dolphins and the University of North Florida.
Stephanie Haas led the way for the Eagles against JU on Thursday, pouring in 17 points. Sarah Hansen was also in double figures with 14 points, and her 10 rebounds were enough to register her fourth double-double of the season. FGCU had 14 steals and forced 20 JU turnovers in the game as the Dolphins only put 43 points on the board in a 62-43 win for the Eagles.
The momentum from Thursday night carried into the afternoon contest Saturday as the Eagles handed an 80-54 drubbing to UNF. Five Eagles scored with double figures and every player who was active got onto the scoresheet against the Ospreys. Hansen’s 17 points were a team high and lifted her into the top 10 all-time in scoring in the Atlantic Sun Conference. With her performances this weekend, Hansen was named the A-Sun Player of the Week. Haas and Amanda Moore both added 13 points off the bench while Jenna Cobb and Whitney Knight each had 11. Moore’s 13-point performance was a career high as she went an impressive 4-5 from beyond the arc.
The Eagles have seen chemistry and continuity in the team continue to grow as the season has progressed. From the start of the season, coach Karl Smesko has been insistent that when his team began to play more for each other, they would start to see more success.
“If we have a team committed to rebounding the basketball and playing unselfishly on the offensive end,” he said.
The Eagles have really responded to their coach and his philosophies on the floor, and the results are impossible to ignore. Unconventional scorers DyTiesha Dunson and Cobb have both had breakout nights on the offensive end recently, and the Eagles have had more contributions from bench players such as Moore and Haas. FGCU has had multiple players in double figures for six consecutive games since their loss at Northern Kentucky, including three games in which four or more Eagles scored more than 10 points.
Smesko said that the loss triggered a change in his team, saying, “For whatever reason, after the loss, there was more of a willingness to accept some of the things that we had been going over for the previous few weeks.” It’s safe to assume that list included rebounding and playing as a team on both ends of the floor.
Cobb said when asked of the recent success, “We’re playing together on defense and on offense and I think that’s been the biggest thing, just playing FGCU basketball.” Dunson echoed that sentiment, saying, “Like coach said, we’re playing more unselfishly.. we’re scoring more points and getting the ball to the open player…and we’re creating (looks) for each other.”
Once again, Stetson made it through the weekend unbeaten, taking us another week closer to the showdown on March 8 with major A-Sun tournament implications. Both teams currently sit at 14-1 in Atlantic Sun play, deadlocked in a first-place tie. With seeding determining home-court advantage this season, winning the regular-season conference title has become more than just something to pat yourself on the back about. The contest March 8 in DeLand will determine which one of these Atlantic Sun powers will be at home for the duration of the tournament.
The Eagles and the Hatters both receive a big boost in energy from their home crowd, so the winner of this matchup will have a definite advantage when it comes to the tournament. Just like they did last weekend in Jacksonville, both teams will face the same opponents this week leading up to the big game.