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Eagles Women’s Basketball Claws Past Kentucky for Second Straight Win

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Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

After a dominant win over FIU last Tuesday night, the 2-1 Eagles looked to replicate this performance on Nov. 19 against the University of Kentucky.

The University of Kentucky entered the game with a 2-1 record, most recently losing to fellow ASUN Conference member Austin Peay, 68-63.

As tipoff got underway, the Eagles started off hot by scoring 11 points unanswered. Kentucky rallied back, scoring the next five as both teams continued to go back and forth throughout the quarter. The majority of FGCU’s first quarter points were divided between guards senior Dolly Cairns and redshirt junior Maddie Antenucci as well as fifth-year forward Uju Ezeudu.

The first quarter ended with the Eagles up on Kentucky, 18-7. Ezedudu scored six points while Cairns and Antenucci scored five apiece to that point.

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Momentum continued to fall the Eagles’ way as Antenucci scored a layup and three-pointer off of a fast break for FGCU to start the second quarter. The Wildcats tried everything they could to get the momentum to swing their way but the gap only had grown as the first half came to a close.

The Eagles led by 11 points going into the half, 30-19. FGCU’s defense stepped up, forcing 14 turnovers for points. Antenucci stood out as the dominant player of the first half, scoring 11 points, the most of any player. She was a focal point for the Eagles’ defense as well, having the most defensive rebounds on the team all game with five.

FGCU’s offense had been sketchy to that point which allowed Kentucky to maintain its gap throughout the first half. They shot 2/18, just 11.1% from the three-point line, in the first half. This has been a constant theme for the Eagles so far this season as they have scored most of their points this season from the paint instead of from behind the three-point line..

The third quarter picked up right where the Eagles left off, scoring first with a shot from Cairns in the paint. Kentucky would score to respond back before the Eagles’ defense took over.

FGCU scored 10 of their next 12 points off of Kentucky turnovers. With that, the Eagles’ lead was up to 21 points only two and a half minutes into the third quarter. The quarter came to a close with the Eagles holding their biggest lead of the game, 24 points, and leading, 55-31.

As the final quarter got underway, FGCU turned down the jets. The Eagles only scored four more points across the last 10 minutes of the game.

Kentucky tried everything they could to get back into the game, but as time continued to tick down, the Wildcats could only narrow the lead down to 11 points.

FGCU came away with a double-digit win over Kentucky, 59-48, as the Eagles earned their third win in four games this season. FGCU women’s basketball returns Nov. 24-26 in the Gulf Coast Showcase where they will first face off against Delaware on Friday. 

ASUN Women’s Basketball Newcomer of the Week was awarded to Cairns. She had her second double-digit scoring game in a row, scoring 16 points against the Wildcats, the highest scoring total for any of the Eagles in the game.

“I had a rough shooting night from three, but I just try to run our actions well and just really stick to how we play basketball.” Cairns said. “When I’m open, take the shot, and it could be anybody’s night, you know, just try to take those opportunities and make them useful.”

The Eagles will play three games in three days starting this Friday. Coach Karl Smesko provides input on how the team plans to prepare for the short turnaround. “Preparation is very important to us, and obviously whenever you get in these tournaments where you play back-to-back-to-back, it’s hard to have a very detailed game plan because you only have one shootaround or walkthrough and then you got to play the game,” Coach Smesko said. “We just go in, we prepare for the first team and we try to be as prepared for the first team because you don’t even know for sure who you are going to be playing in the second game.”

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka, Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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