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Women’s Basketball Hammers North Alabama to Finish Homecoming Week

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Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

As homecoming week came to a close at FGCU, the women’s basketball team played against the 10-13 North Alabama Lions on Feb. 10. The Lions entered this game looking for positive momentum after a tough loss against the Stetson Hatters. That was not what the Lions found on the road as the Eagles continued their win streak with an 84-42 victory.

The Eagles entered this game on a 13 game winning streak after coming off of a dominant 65-43 victory over the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears. This locked FGCU into the ASUN Conference tournament at the end of the regular season, allowing the Eagles to defend their 2023 ASUN Championship title.

Fifth-year student Ajulu Thatha began the game by scoring the Eagles’ first points off of a fastbreak. Senior Dolly Cairns followed this up with a 3-pointer off a turnover by the Lions to make the score 5-0. This gave the Eagles an early lead that they held for the entire game.

Redshirt junior Emani Jefferson was the star of the first quarter as she scored half of the 16 points the Eagles earned in the first quarter. This dominance continued throughout the game as she dropped 20 points over the course of the afternoon. This game was Jefferson’s sixth game in which she scored 20 or more points this season. The first quarter concluded with the Eagles leading 16-9.

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FGCU set the tone to start the second quarter as Thatha made a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a double digit lead. This was the start of the Eagles’ highest scoring quarter in the game, as they scored 25 points over the next 10 minutes.

In the second quarter, the Eagles utilized the 3-point line to their advantage. They scored 12 points from the line by shooting 50%. Redshirt senior Brylee Bartram was the most consistent shooter from this range with a perfect 3/3 in the quarter. The Eagles extended their lead by 14 points in the second quarter to end the first half up 41-20.

FGCU was able to dominate this game through their defense. North Alabama had been the best team around the 3-point line in the ASUN Conference. The Eagles’ pressure forced the Lions to attempt more shots in the paint. When the Lions were open around the 3-point line, they faltered as they shot 4/19 throughout the game, just over 21%.

FGCU’s dominance continued throughout the second half as they scored 43 points in comparison to North Alabama’s 22 points. The Eagles went on to convincingly win the game 84-42, doubling the Lions’ points on the way to their 14th straight victory.

Throughout the second half, the majority of the Eagles’ points came from players coming off of the bench. Bartram and graduate student Shekinah Guthrie were the two highest scorers coming off of the bench, combining for 23 points in the game. Head coach Karl Smesko provided input on what it meant to get everyone involved in the victory.

“Well, we have a lot of really good players and, you know, we look for whenever they get their opportunity, we’re expecting them to make good contributions,” Smesko said. “And I thought off the bench, Brylee and Shekinah did a great job for us today. And hopefully, that’ll continue going forward.”

Bartram had a good night, contributing with 15 points over the course of 30 minutes, good for third in scoring on the team. 

“I think that you know, we all did a really good job of finding the open person, everybody contributing, and my teammates did a good job finding me,” Bartram said. “It was nice to be able to knock down some shots. Help us win tonight.”

FGCU now improves to 21-4 and will head on the road for the next two games at Kennesaw State and Queens. The Eagles then return home to Alico Arena on Feb. 24 to face the Stetson University Hatters, who currently sit third in the ASUN Conference standings and are 13-12 overall. This will be the first of three consecutive games at home to wrap up the regular season for FGCU.

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About the Contributor
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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