TALLAHASSEE— In front of a crowd of 4,772, Florida Gulf Coast University lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Florida State University, 65-47.
“They blitzed us pretty good in the very beginning,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “They knocked down a lot of shots and we turned it over the first three possessions. We dug ourselves a little bit of a whole, but I’m proud of how we came back for the rest of the half and put ourselves in a position to compete in the second half and unfortunately Florida State is really good. There are times when I see Florida State where I think they are the second best team in the country and there were parts of today’s game where they were playing at about that level.”
The Eagles fall to 31-3 on the season, the best record in the program’s D1 history, and the record-breaking season comes to an end in which the women were ranked as high as No. 20 in the nation.
Before the biggest crowd FGCU faced all season, FSU jumped out to a 17-2 run to start the game and led throughout the entire game.
“They’re really good at pushing the ball and we still sent five people back and they still found a way to push it and get by,” FGCU redshirt freshman guard Taylor Gradinjan said. “I think we may have been a little nervous in the beginning, but that was just because of the game. I think it didn’t have to do any with the crowd.”
The Eagles made it a game heading into the half closing the FSU lead to six at one point before the half ended 36-28.
An ice-cold second half start going 0-12 helped FSU pull away to its biggest lead of 24 with 5:44 left in the game.
“In the second half, I think we got a little bit dejected because we got some good looks really early in the second half,” Smesko said. “We didn’t make any of them, but we disbanded and we kind of hurried some things and rushed some shots rather than continuing to run our offense.”
Gradinjan led the Eagles scoring 12 points while going 4 of 11 from the field and two of four from beyond the arc. The Seminoles were led by freshman Shakayla Thomas with 12 points and junior Adut Bulgak with 13 boards.
FSU outshot FGCU from the field 46 percent to 31, while outrebounding the Eagles by 23.
FGCU loses seniors Jenna Cobb and Anthi Chatzigiakoumi, but returns 12 players next year. Cobb, the 2014 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, leaves after two trips to the NCAA Tournament after transferring from Butler.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better senior year, with a better coach and with a better group of girls,” Cobb said. “We lost three games the whole year. I think we have a lot to be proud of.”
The Seminoles (31-4) will play the winner of No. 3 seed Arizona State and No. 11 seed University of Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday night.