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Women’s Basketball Shuts Down North Florida for 25th Win of the Season

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Jessica Piland

With two games remaining in the regular season and both at home, the FGCU women’s basketball team took on the University of North Florida on Feb. 29. After only leading by eight points with under four minutes in the first half, the Eagles went on a huge scoring run while shutting down the Ospreys on the defensive end that led to a 75-33 crushing victory for FGCU as they improved to 25-4 on the season.

For the Eagles, they came into this game 24-4 overall and 14-0 in conference play. Most recently, the Eagles defeated Stetson on Feb. 24 68-52 and they haven’t suffered a loss since Dec. 10 at Duke. For the Ospreys, they came into this game with a record of 9-19 and 3-11 in conference play. The Ospreys were coming off of a 91-84 double overtime victory over Kennesaw State at home that same day.

Through half of the first quarter, it was only a 10-7 game in which the Eagles led. At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles were up 19-13 after a bit of a slower start to the game.

Into the second quarter, FGCU tried to extend their lead to double digits but North Florida continued to respond each time to be within 10 points of the Eagles. After a free throw was made by the Ospreys that cut the Eagles’ lead only nine points at 33-24 with just over two minutes to go in the first half, fifth-year student Sofia Persson scored all nine of the Eagles’ points to end the half with the Eagles up at halftime 42-24.

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The third quarter was more of the same as FGCU continued scoring consistently while also playing lockdown defense. The Ospreys could only muster five points in the quarter as the Eagles put up 22 points. At the end of the third quarter, the Eagles led the Ospreys 64-29 in a dominating effort on both sides of the floor.

North Florida was able to get on the board first in the fourth quarter with two free throws and a layup. That all happened before the seven minute mark and those were the last points that FGCU allowed the rest of the game. The Eagles shut out the Ospreys for the final 7:18 of the game as the Eagles came away with a 75-33 win to improve to 25-4 on the season and 15-0 in conference play. Head coach Karl Smesko said that the run at the end of the first half was significant in allowing the Eagles to open the game up in their favor.

“I thought how we finished the half was really important for us,” Smesko said. “We got a little bit of separation. It was like an eight point game with three or four minutes to go in the second quarter and then we made a nice run. And honestly, a lot of that was Sofia. She was pushing the pace, she was passing to people, she was seeing her space. When she was open, she caught it and knocked down a three. She really was outstanding, especially the last five minutes of the second quarter was huge for us getting some separation.”

Persson led the Eagles in scoring with 19 points, her most points in a game this season. Also in double figures was fellow fifth-year student Uju Ezeudu with 12 points and a trio of senior Dolly Cairns, fifth-year student Ajulu Thatha and redshirt junior Emani Jefferson all finished with 11 points each. Persson had this to say about how she felt after her and her team’s performance.

“I think it feels good. I think we are playing really good right now,” Persson said. “And it’s always fun to contribute offensively, but I think I just care about playing good basketball as a whole, as a team. I think we did that so that’s the most important thing.”

FGCU will wrap up the regular season later today against the Jacksonville Dolphins on senior night. The Eagles reached 25 wins for the 14th consecutive year after their win against North Florida. UConn is the only other school that has achieved this feat over that span. If the Eagles win tonight, it will be their seventh time going undefeated during the regular season in the ASUN Conference and the first time since 2020-21.

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About the Contributors
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.
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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