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Women’s Basketball Stifles Queens in ASUN Home Opener

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

In their ASUN Conference home opener, the FGCU women’s basketball team faced Queens University of Charlotte on Jan. 18. Despite a relatively close box score for all but the second quarter, that was all the Eagles needed as FGCU handled business by defeating Queens 82-57 en route to earning their seventh consecutive win in the process.

Heading into this matchup, the Eagles were 13-4 and on a six game winning streak. The first three ASUN Conference games for the Eagles were on the road at Jacksonville, North Florida and Stetson. FGCU won all three games by double digits to begin conference play undefeated.

On the other hand, Queens University had been struggling up to this point as the Royals were 6-10 before this game and on a three game losing streak. The first three ASUN Conference games had not gone the way the Royals would’ve liked as Queens started conference play by losing to Kennesaw State, Jacksonville and North Florida.

To start the game, fouls and turnovers dictated the pace or lack thereof. Each team traded possessions and miscues early on. However, FGCU was able to gain the advantage and began to increase their lead in the first quarter. Two 3-pointers from fifth-year student Uju Ezeudu and redshirt senior Brylee Bartram gave FGCU a comfortable 18-8 lead. By the end of the quarter, Queens went on a scoring run and FGCU went into the second quarter only up 18-14.

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The second quarter was where the Eagles flexed their muscles and took clear control of the game. A lot of that was because of the Eagles’ defense as the Royals shot only 21% from the field in the quarter which translated to the Royals scoring just eight points.

At halftime, FGCU held a commanding 40-22 lead. The biggest contribution to the Eagles’ offense in the first half came from redshirt junior Emani Jefferson as she led the team with 18 points heading into the break.

FGCU continued to increase their sizable lead in the third quarter as the Eagles led by 31 points with just under seven minutes to play in the quarter. While the offense was electric to start the second half, the defense also did their job to perfection at the same time as the Eagles held the Royals scoreless in that same span.

The offense for FGCU did go cold at times in the second half but the defense never allowed Queens to get any closer than 20 points at the same time. It was a full team effort in all phases at different times of the game but when it was over, FGCU came out of the game comfortably victorious, 82-57.

Turnovers were a key throughout the game for FGCU. The Eagles forced 25 turnovers and were able to capitalize on most of those by scoring 30 points off of turnovers in the process. Head coach Karl Smesko spoke after the game about their game plan in trying to force the Royals into those situations.

“We just kept trying to make everything difficult on them and we were hoping to force a high number of turnovers so that we could get in transition,” Smesko said. “You need all five players to be in the right spot pressuring because if there’s ever an easy pass, they’ll just take the easy pass. So this is a team effort to make sure that we’re forcing a lot of turnovers and we like to get more of those turnovers out in transition.”

Jefferson, who had 18 points in just the first half, finished up the game by leading the team in scoring and reaching a career high in points with 24. She also added seven rebounds which was second on the team. Jefferson was all over the court impacting the game and she spoke as to why she had that kind of impact after.

“I’m just trying to think ahead. In film, coach Smesko was talking about just thinking ahead, and thinking about the next play and just reading the defense,” Jefferson said.

Ezeudu earned her third double-double this season with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Redshirt junior Maddie Antenucci was the third Eagle to reach double figures in scoring in this game with 15 points.

With the win, FGCU improves to 14-4 and stays undefeated in conference play. But it’s a quick turnaround for FGCU as the Eagles will play again later today with less than two days of rest between games. FGCU will welcome Kennesaw State. The Eagles have beaten the Owls 26 consecutive times heading into this matchup.

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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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