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Women’s Basketball Crushes FIU in Home Opener

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

After a road trip to start the season, the FGCU women’s basketball team enjoyed a warm welcome in their home opener on Nov. 14 with a blowout win over FIU, 81-48.

Before arriving back home, the Eagles split their road trip, 1-1, to start the year with a decisive win over Brown and a loss against No. 21 ranked USC.

FIU started their season 2-0 with wins over Florida National University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Heading into this game, FGCU was undefeated against FIU with an overall record of 14-0. The Eagles won 92-63 last year in Miami. Not much changed in this year’s edition of the in-state matchup.

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The Panthers scored first to start the game, but their only lead lasted 14 seconds. A three-pointer from fifth-year student Uju Ezeudu gave the Eagles an early and narrow lead that would only continue to grow throughout the game.

FGCU had a 21-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Most of the offense early on for the Eagles came from Ezeudu and senior Dolly Cairns. FIU’s offense couldn’t get anything going and that would be a trend for the Panthers in this game.

At the end of the first half, FGCU led FIU by a score of 44-28. To that point, FGCU’s ball movement was great on offense and the defense wasn’t allowing FIU to get any closer to the Eagles either.

Not much changed in the second half. The only thing that was a hindrance for the Eagles was shooting from the three-point line as they only shot 5/21 from beyond the arc. The Panthers’ perimeter defense was a big reason why but that didn’t hinder the Eagles’ scoring efforts from elsewhere.

At the end of the third quarter, FGCU led FIU 62-37. This was even with the three-pointer not working for the Eagles. The Eagles scored most of their points in the paint and the game was already over at that point. Head coach Karl Smesko talked about the scoring after the game.

“The teams can decide to really concentrate on taking away the threes, and they did a good job staying with shooters and not giving a lot of help on drives to force us to attack the rim more, I thought, especially early. Dolly was really good at attacking the rim. Cerina Rolle was really good at attacking the rim. I thought we did some nice things with that,” Smesko said.

Cairns was the leading scorer with 19 points, while Ezeudu had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Cairns had this to say about her and the team’s performance after the game.

“I thought it was solid. I still think there’s a lot of things I can improve on, individually and as a team. But I think it was really good to come out and just kind of get all the jitters out and have a good, solid first game in Alico Arena this season,” Cairns said.

The fourth quarter added to the stat sheet for FGCU on both the offensive and defensive side. On the defensive side, the Eagles held the Panthers scoreless for the last 7:13 minutes of the game. As for the offense, the Eagles dominated in their victory as the final score was 81-48 over the Panthers. FGCU improves to 2-1 on the season to this point.

Next up on the schedule, the Eagles will host the Kentucky Wildcats later today. Coach Smesko is looking forward to the home matchup against an SEC school like Kentucky.

“It’s an opportunity to play a Power Five team at home in Alico. It would be nice if we could get this thing packed for that game. It’s not easy getting the Power Five teams to come here. Hopefully we’ll just have a tremendous atmosphere here,” Coach Smesko said.

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About the Contributor
James Curtis
James Curtis, Eagle News Sports Editor
James Curtis is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in global studies. He is from Tampa, FL, and has known he wanted to be a journalist since taking a journalism class in seventh grade. He has been involved in sports for his whole life, including swimming competitively all the way through high school. His goal now is to be a sports journalist. When not covering sports games or writing stories, he's usually spending his free time with his friends or watching YouTube.

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