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Eagles Soar to the Top of ASUN Conference Standings, Toppling the Owls

Jessica Piland

On Jan. 20, FGCU women’s basketball was set to play their final game at home before heading on the road for their second three-game stretch away from the nest. They welcomed the 8-9 Kennesaw State Owls, who were also entering this game 4-0 in ASUN play. It would be the Eagles who soared to the top of the conference standings with a 93-65 win over the Owls.

The Eagles entered this game with a record of 14-4 after a double digit victory against the Queens University of Charlotte Royals on Jan. 18. That win marked FGCU’s seventh win in a row, as they looked to continue this streak against the Owls.

Before the game got underway, redshirt junior Maddie Antenucci was seen with a boot around her leg, marking her out for the game. This tossed redshirt freshman Cerina Rolle into the starting lineup.

Just after tipoff, Kennesaw State put the first points on the board. This was the only lead the Owls had throughout the night as the Eagles took immediate action, scoring the following six points in response.

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The first quarter saw redshirt junior Emani Jefferson and fifth-year student Uju Ezeudu combine to score 17 of the 23 points in the quarter for the Eagles. This dominance by FGCU continued through the duration of the game. The quarter ended with the Eagles up 23-10.

Kennesaw State opened the second quarter with two layups to bring the Owls back within 10 points. This small lead did not last for long as Ezeudu scored the Eagles first points of the quarter. She was the only player for FGCU to score more than once during this quarter, as she had 11 points on five shots.

The first half ended with the Eagles leading 45-25. FGCU could attribute their dominance to success in the paint. The Eagles scored over half of their points in this part of the court, outscoring the Owls 26-16. Ezeudu scored 19 points in the first half and she was on pace to reach her career high before being taken out of the game late in the third quarter.

Dominance was the theme in the second half of the game, as the Kennesaw State Owls were unable to get anything to go their way. The Eagles outscored the Owls 48-40 in the second half to give Kennesaw State their first ASUN Conference loss. In the process, FGCU won 93-65 for their eighth win in a row and now hold a 5-0 conference record.

The defining factor in the Eagles’ success was their ability to take possessions away from the Owls. FGCU scored 19 points off turnovers and was able to fight for 25 rebounds in the victory. Head coach Karl Smesko provided input on what it meant to put on such a dominant performance.

“I thought we played really well. I thought we forced them into tough shots the whole first half. They’re a great rebounding team. And I thought everybody was contributing to keep them off the offensive glass,” Smesko said. “We shared the ball, we looked for teammates, we were ready to pass it to them when they got open. Obviously, Uju and Emani had outstanding performances but, you know, we got a lot of good performances from everybody.”

Jefferson was named ASUN Women’s Basketball Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week after her performances against Queens and Kennesaw State this past week. In the win over Kennesaw State, Jefferson had 19 points, which was second best on the team, on perfect shooting by nailing all eight of her shots.

Ezeudu was the player of the game, finishing with 23 points, the most out of any player in the game. This marked her third game of the season scoring 20 or more points in a single game. She discussed how she produced such a feat.

“I’m just executing what coach puts in a game plan for me. So looking for what’s open and trying to read the defense,” Ezeudu said. “My teammates looked to me a lot tonight for open passes. So credit to my teammates.”

This win catapulted FGCU to a 15-4 record and the top of the ASUN Conference standings. It also leaves the Eagles as the only ASUN Conference team with an undefeated record in conference play at 5-0. The Eagles return home on Feb. 3 to play the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.

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About the Contributors
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.
Jessica Piland
Jessica Piland, Eagle News Photo Editor
Jessica Piland is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in global studies. She found her passion for photography during her senior year of high school after shooting some film for fun with her grandfather’s camera from the 80s. In addition to her work as photo editor for Eagle News, she works as a staff photographer for FGCU Athletics and is a photography intern with the University Marketing and Communications department. As she enters her third year as photo editor, she is excited for the fun stories, campus events, and breaking news that Eagle News will be covering!

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