FGCU women now 5-2 after tournament
The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team is coming off an impressive performance in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A round-robin-style tournament, the Paradise Jam Island division consisted of FGCU, Wichita State, Ohio State and Clemson University.
The Eagles began their tournament against Wichita State, where strong defense held the Shockers to under 40 points with a 56-39 victory. FGCU allowed just 13 points in the first half and extended its lead to as high as 29 points in the second half. Defense led the way for the Eagles as they held Wichita State to just 33 percent shooting from the field and 16 percent from beyond the arc. Stephanie Haas led the team in this one with 16 points as well as grabbing five rebounds.
“We really limited their looks at the basket and they didn’t get any really good scoring opportunities,” said Coach Karl Smesko. “They had to settle for tough shots and we did a good job competing on the boards.”
On day two of the tournament, the Eagles lit it up from the perimeter en route to defeating Clemson University 86-61. Whitney Knight led all scorers with a career-high 28 points on 58 percent shooting and sank five of FGCU’s 14 total three-pointers. Knight also grabbed seven rebounds with four steals and two blocks.
The third day and final game of the Paradise Jam was by far the most challenging for the Eagles. Facing off against Ohio State University, FGCU fell in double overtime 90-83. Knight led the team again this time dropping 17 points on 43 percent shooting.
FGCU had the lead 41-36 heading into halftime with help from its perimeter game, knocking down 11 three pointers in the first half. The Buckeyes pressured the perimeter in the second half, bringing the game to a tie at 70-70 following regulation. Free throws were a huge factor in the two overtime periods as OSU landed 12 of 18 from the foul line compared to the Eagles’ 3 of 10.
Despite the loss, the Eagles were able to grab the tournament title off of point differential criteria. They held a 10-point advantage over the Buckeyes following the final day of the tournament. The Green and Blue fell to 5-2 on the year while Ohio State improved to 4-3.
“I think we had a good trip here,” Smesko said. “We leave with a sour taste in our mouth because we feel like we let one slip away, but we’ll have to learn from it. We will be in these situations again and we’ll have to execute better down the stretch. The good thing is we definitely wanted to get out name up there [on the wall of champions] and we’re glad we did that.”
Among past champions of the Island Division includes Connecticut, Duke, Alabama, Wisconsin, Georgetown and Notre Dame.