FGCU clinches NCAA bid with win against Jacksonville
The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team cruised to a victory over Jacksonville 62-42 in an Atlantic Sun conference semifinal battle at Alico Arena Wednesday night.
With Stetson University losing Northern Kentucky University Wednesday night, FGCU earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This will be the third time in four years that the program will be heading to the tourney.
The Eagles moved to 29-2 on the season with a 24-game win streak, which is tied for fourth in the nation.
“It’s definitely a good win for us,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “I think we did a good job defensively especially against their best scorers trying to keep the ball out of their hands. For the first half, we did a great job on them then we did a pretty good job defensively other than finishing the possession and rebounding.”
Taylor Gradinjan played big minutes after Katie Meador went down with an injury 80 seconds into the game scoring 11 points going 4-7 from the field and 3-6 from 3-point territory.
When asked about the possible loss of Meador, Smesko said, “It definitely dampers the spirit. You know Katie got hurt early in the game and we’re hoping it is not serious, but what I’ll say about Meador the second half of this conference season she’s played the best basketball of her FGCU career and she’s been exceptional.”
Jenna Cobb led FGCU with a season-high 20 points and added three assists and six rebounds to her tally.
“We’re looking forward to the championship game and we’re going to game plan as well as we can,” Cobb said.
The Eagles forced the most turnovers this season with 27 and capitalized with 38 points off of those turnovers. FGCU continued to be solid from the field shooting 41 percent and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Eagles held a double-digit lead from the 5:08 mark in the first half and never looked back throughout the rest of the game even leading by as much as 25.
The women will take on NKU in the A-Sun Conference final at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at Alico Arena and the game will be live on ESPN3. The Norse are 19-12 on the season and have lost in both matchups against FGCU by 21 points or more.
“That was an overriding goal getting back to the NCAA, winning in the NCAA once we find out who we play, but right now we’re in the middle of something that we’re trying to complete and that’s to win this conference tournament.”