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FGCU’s Women’s Basketball Upsets the University of North Carolina during the Gulf Coast Showcase

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Courtesy of Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

Heading into Thanksgiving weekend, FGCU Women’s Basketball was invited to play in the Gulf Coast Showcase with three games ahead of them. Their first was against the 1-1 University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens.

FGCU entered the tournament with a dominant 58-49 win against the University of Kentucky, bumping their record to 3-1. They looked to continue this momentum against the University of Delaware to have the opportunity to advance to the tournament’s second round.

Tip-off began with the Fightin’ Blue Hens immediately taking charge, scoring the game’s first three points. The Eagles immediately rallied back, scoring a three-pointer of their own. This shot was from ASUN Newcomer of the Week Dolly Cairns. 

This back-and-forth dynamic continued throughout the first quarter, ending with FGCU in the lead 19-13. The Eagles’ offense was sloppy, with their defense being the critical factor keeping them them in the game.

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During the second quarter, FGCU went on a tear. They outscored the Fighin’ Blue Hens by eight points, leading to a 47-33 advantage going into the half.

Throughout the game thus far, the Eagles had been statistically worse on shooting than the Fighin’ Blue Hens; the difference was their defense. FGCU’s defense had obtained six steals up to this point of the game, which later added up to 13 when the game eventually came to a close.

The last two quarters were no different, with the Eagles staying in control. FGCU outscored by three points in the third quarter, closing the advantage to just 11 points. This was short-lived as the Eagles extended their advantage to 15 points, winning their first game 83-68.

With their victory against the University of Delaware, FGCU was set to play the defending NCAA tournament runner-ups, the fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Who advanced to the semi-finals with their win over the Fort Wayne Mastodons 98-59.

The second game started rough for the Eagles, as the Hawkeyes outscored FGCU throughout the first quarter 26-8. 

As the Eagles scrambled to find momentum, the Hawkeyes replicated their first-quarter performance, outsourcing the Eagles by another 18 points. FGCU needed to change something to get back into this game heading into the second half.

As third-quarter play got underway, the Eagles were finally able to get the ball moving and into the basket. They ended the quarter outscoring the Hawkeyes 23-21. This was short-lived, as there was no way to catch the Hawkeyes with a gap of 74-44.

FGCU lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes 100-62,  moving to the third-place bracket for the final day of tournament play. The Eagles were set to play the 18th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Entering this last game, both teams were looking to end the tournament strong after dealing with tough losses during the second day of play. Once the game was underway, it was evident that both teams were evenly matched, as this ended up being the closest game of the weekend.

The first quarter started with the Eagles going up four points with two foul shots from redshirt Maddie Antenucci and a shot in the paint by redshirt freshman Cerina Rolle. The Tar Heels matched FGCU’s start with a 4-0 scoring run of themselves.

This dynamic continued until the end of the first quarter when FGCU was able to pull out a series of three-pointers by Antenucci. FGCU ended the quarter 26-18, looking to provide the only upset of the tournament. 

Heading into the second quarter, FGCU looked to continue their scoring run; however, the Tar Heels had different plans. The quarter took a complete 180 as UNC was in complete control of the Eagles. They rallied back from their first-quarter struggles, leading 33-31 at the half.

As the third quarter got underway, the Tar Heels came back where they left off, scoring seven points before the Eagles scored their first points. Those points came in the form of a three from fifth-year Ajulu Thatha.

This started a run of scores that went back and forth leading up to the final seconds when UNC scored a last-second bucket to go into the last quarter down by two points.

The fourth quarter started with FGCU scoring a bucket to push the lead by four points. After that shot, neither team allowed the other to get over three points. This continued up to the final seconds.

As the game got down to crutch time, the Eagles were down by one point with three minutes left. FGCU could not get the ball down to their side of the court. The one time they did they missed their only shot.

FGCU had one more opportunity to score when they got down the court with 29 seconds left. During this time, they continued to pass the ball around the key when fifth year Kierra Adams found a lane to the basket. She gave the Eagles a 65-64 lead with seven seconds left in the game.

Adams’ shot sealed the game for the Eagles as the North Carolina Tar Heels ran out of time. This marked FGCU Women’s Basketball’s seventh Top-25 win in program history. They got 10 AP Poll votes for their effort.

Eagles’ top scorer, Dolly Cairns, got two awards for her efforts throughout the weekend. She won the ASUN Women’s Basketball’s Newcomer of the Week for the second straight week and was selected to the Gulf-Coast Showcases All Tournament Team.

FGCU’s record moves to 5-2 on the season, returning home to Alico Arena to face Ave Maria Gyrene on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

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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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