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By Dick Allen
The much anticipated rematch between the # 7 seeded FGCU Eagles and the 10th seeded Oklahoma State Cowgirls is finally ready to tip off. Ever since last Monday’s announcement of the matchups, expectations have been building. Not only with the team members and the coaching staff but with the fans who traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana last year and had their hearts broken by the same Oklahoma State girls.
Hope springs eternal, and there was not a single fan who doesn’t believe that the FGCU women were the better team that day and should have won the game in regulation. The Eagles lost in overtime and Oklahoma State took on playing Purdue University on their home floor with a trip to the sweet 16 at stake. What hurts even more, was that the Cowgirls beat Purdue and we’re making that trip to the sweet 16 to face Notre Dame. “It should have been us”, said season ticket holder from day one Bill Kuzbyt who has traveled to every Atlantic Sun and NCAA tournament game FGCU has ever played.
On the strength of 26 points from Kaneisha Atwater and a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds from Whitney Knight, the No. 7 FGCU women’s basketball team used a 12-0 run late in the second half to pull away from No. 10 Oklahoma State and earn its first Division-I NCAA Tournament win in program history with a 75-67 victory over the Cowgirls in the First Round Saturday afternoon. With the win at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, the Eagles move on to the Second Round with a record of 31-2, while OSU ends the season at 20-12.
The win avenged a 61-60 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in last year’s NCAA Tournament and extended the Eagles’ winning streak to 26 in a row. The Green and Blue advance to play No. 2 Florida State, who defeated No. 15 Alabama State Saturday afternoon. The Sunshine State matchup is slated for 6 p.m. Monday on ESPNU, with the winner earning a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” said 13th-year head coach Karl Smesko. “We get our first Division I NCAA Tournament win. We beat a very good team and I’m definitely proud of the way we started the game. Oklahoma State posed a lot of challenges for us, but we had a lot of players step up. Kaneisha and Whitney had huge scoring games, but the whole team had to step up at different points and make plays and it was such a great team effort. I’m proud of our team and look forward to the opportunity to keep playing.”
By Dick Allen Special Correspondent
Yesterday at the team practice and shoot around at the Donald L . Tucker Center in Tallahassee, the mood was both loose and focused at the same time. As Coach Smesko barked out formations and plays, the girls responded and executed. Although one might have thought coach was trying out to be an A-Sun referee with the many whistles he blew stopping play again, again, and again, he ran those same formations and plays for the better part of 90 minutes. In the shoot around the girls counted off successful three point baskets each were making – 7, 8, 9, 10, in a row nearly every single girl.
The coaching staff had done there work. The girls were ready to be turned lose.
Tip off is in 30 minutes and the FGCU women are back on the floor, not quite is loose as yesterday in practice, but that can be expected. The anticipation was huge. Perhaps now the girls were beginning to feel the weight of the last 2 appearances in the NCAA tournament. Both losses, both in overtime. So much is expected this time.
The students who left campus at 4 am have arrived, the stands in back of the FGCU bench were beginning turn all blue. The band with blasting the FGCU fight song and the “Voice” could be heard in the stands leading the crowd in … Go Eagles!
The stage is set.
Story number one by Dick Allen special correspondent
Deja Vu … All Over Again
In a rematch almost to the exact day – a year later, the number 7 seeded FGCU Lady Eagles will face off against the number 10 seeded Cowgirls of Oklahoma State University. The only difference is that we are not at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana but rather on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
The rematch has a bit of irony attached to it as last year FGCU was seeded 12 while Oklahoma State was seeded 5. The Eagles took the Cowgirls into overtime before dropping a one point Heartbreaker while the Cowgirls went on to play in the sweet 16.
Tomorrow’s game finds the roles reversed with the Eagles being the higher seed and the favorite to win.
But you can’t convince the Eagle players that they are the favorites. At the pre game press conference senior captain Jenna Cobb said quite plainly “they beat us last year. We are clearly the underdogs.” The sentiment was echoed by A-Sun player of the year junior Whitney Knight, “We are going to play like the underdogs!”, she said. A-Sun coach of the year Karl Smesko praised the Oklahoma State team “They are a very, very good team”, he said several times during the press conference. When asked how he had prepared his team for the big size advantage that Oklahoma State will have, he brought smiles to the press corps and to his two players sitting next to him on the dias when he replied, “I asked the scout team to look bigger.”
Confident and focused are both Cobb and Knight. They are resolved to win the team’s first NCAA Tournament game. That’s what they came to do. We suspect the rest of the Eagles are on the same mission.
As if defeating the 20th ranked Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team is not difficult enough for their Atlantic Sun Conference opponents, as North Florida found it, it is nearly impossible when they are not playing their best. Such was the case as the Eagles defeated the Osprey 74-35 in front of 1,806 at the Alico Arena on Friday night in front of 1,806 in the quarterfinals of the A-Sun tournament. The win is the 23rd in a row for the Eagles (28-2) which is currently is the third best in the nation. Top seeded FGCU will host fourth seeded Jacksonville University, a 55-54 winner over Kennesaw State in their quarterfinal game, on Wednesday night at 7 in the A-Sun semifinals. The eighth seeded Osprey finished their season at 11-19.It was a well balanced scoring attack for the Eagles as they had five players score in double digits: Kaneisha Atwater (12), Whitney Knight (11), Jenna Cobb (12), Stephanie Haas (11) and Anthi Chatzigiakoumi (10). FGCU shot 24 for 53 on the night, including 16 for 33 in 3-pointers (48.5%).
FGCU wasted little time in getting going as they raced off to an 8-0 start in two three pointers by Knight and her driving layup. After a basket by the Osprey, FGCU went on a 13-0 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from Atwater, Chatzigiakoumi and Cobb, to go up 21-4. Atwater added two free throws in that stretch and Knight had field goal which came on a strong offensive rebound.
“I was feeling good,” Knight said. “I came out with a lot of energy and was able to knock down some shots.”
From there, FGCU was able to go into halftime leading 30-15.
(Click here to see other photos of the game)
Backed by three double-double performances and a career-high tying 19 points from Marc-Eddy Norelia, the FGCU men’s basketball team (22-9) pulled away late to earn an 81-63 victory over Jacksonville (10-22) in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship quarterfinal Tuesday night at Alico Arena.
Senior Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) posted his team-leading sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 assists against just one turnover. Redshirt sophomore Demetris Morant (Miami, Fla./Bishop Gorman HS/UNLV) continued his upward progression with his first career double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Redshirt junior Julian DeBose (Washington, D.C./St. John College HS/Rice) also secured his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-best 10 rebounds.
By BILL LEVY (Click Here to see photos)
It only seemed natural that the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team, which has accomplished so already this season, would close their regular season out with another memorable game; a 78-47 victory over Jacksonville University on Saturday night in front of 3,121 at the Alico Center. With the win, the 21 ranked Eagles are now 26-2, and a perfect 14-0 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. Their win streak is now at a program best 22 games, which is third in the country. They are now scheduled to host the University of North Florida on Friday in the Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals.
Before the game, seniors Anthi Chatzigiakoumi and Jenna Cobb were honored in a special Senior Night ceremony.
“It was nice,” said Chatzigiakoumi, a 6’1” forward who hails from Athens, Greece. “It was nice to see all the people come out and see us.”