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FGCU Extinguishes Drexel Dragons in Homewood Suites Classic

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

After being off last weekend, FGCU women’s basketball returned to Alico Arena for the Homewood Suites Classic. The Eagles have two games over the course of two days against the 4-4 Drexel Dragons and the 7-2 Southern Miss Lady Eagles. They started with Drexel on Dec. 20.

The Eagles entered the Homewood Suites Classic with a record of 7-4 following a tough loss on the road against Duke University. They looked to rebound in front of the home crowd, starting with their game against Drexel University.

As tipoff began, the Eagles got off to a rocky start. FGCU won the tipoff before they immediately lost possession which allowed the Dragons to score the game’s first points. The momentum continued in Drexel’s favor as their defense was crucial to why they were able to stay ahead early.

FGCU took the lead at the end of the first quarter with back-to-back layups by fifth-year Uju Ezedu and Sofia Persson. The Eagles exited the first quarter with a 12-8 advantage over the Dragons.

The second quarter started identically to the first as Drexel scored first and cut the lead to two points. After this basket, this would be the closest the Dragons got to the Eagles for the rest of the game.

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FGCU’s defense took over during the second quarter, restricting Drexel’s offense to just ten shots through ten minutes of play. This allowed the Eagles to pull away with an eight point lead at the end of the first half.

Throughout the first half of play, the Eagles toppled the Dragons in shooting.  FGCU was 3/5 at the free throw line and 3/11 in three-point shooting to that point. Drexel had only taken one shot from those areas on the court. The only comparable statistic was both teams’ field goal percentages. FGCU had the slight advantage by shooting 40% compared to Drexel’s 39.1%.

FGCU needed to overcome two issues if they wanted to be able to pull away in this game. Those were making their shots from the three-point line and utilizing their second chance opportunities to their full capability. 

One factor that allowed the Eagles to control this game offensively to that point was their performance from inside the paint. They scored the majority of their points this season from inside the paint, which has been a strong point in FGCU’s playing style throughout this season so far.

In the third quarter, the Eagles entered as a whole new team. They dominated the Dragons on both offense and defense in what ended up being a foul-heavy period. FGCU scored 23 points throughout the quarter, nearly tying the amount they scored in the first half. The Eagles’ defense restricted the Dragons to only nine points as FGCU ended the quarter up big, 49-27. 

Drexel was only able to put up 8 points in the final quarter, while FGCU outscored them in the quarter with 12 points. The Eagles walked away with a dominant 61-35 victory, ending the game with their largest lead all night. This was partly due to 31% of the Eagles’ points coming from the bench. After a dominant victory, head coach Karl Smesko provided input on how this win was encouraging for the Eagles after a tough loss to the Duke Blue Devils on Dec. 10.

“We knew we could play better than we did a week ago. Obviously, we’re playing a really good team, but we felt like we lost some points out there by not playing our style of basketball,” Smesko said. “I thought we had a really good defensive effort, we executed our defense pretty well for the most part made them take tough shots. And we got out there in conversion and got to the basket a little more this game. So I thought that was encouraging.”

Emani Jefferson had the best performance of any player in the game, accumulating 15 points and 8 rebounds as she led the team in both statistics. She transferred to FGCU over the offseason, discussing the changes she has had to make to her playing style to be able to be in sync with her teammates.

“Well now, I have to become a shooter. But, like, shooting is my responsibility. It’s not just a position; it’s different because I came from driving and rebounding. And now, after reading the defense, scanning the floor and [I’m] developing spots I haven’t before.”

FGCU returns to Alico Arena on Dec. 21 for the second game of this two game homestand against the Southern Miss Lady Eagles.

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News 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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