FGCU tramples competition, wins A-Sun title, NCAA tournament bid in 1st year of eligibility

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After the probationary period from transferring into the NCAA Division I, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles finally got their due. The FGCU Eagles are the 2011-2012 Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Champions after winning each contest of the Atlantic Sun tournament this year.
At 29-2, the FGCU Eagles lost only on the road at Seton Hall by six and at a neutral location to NC State by five. In conference play, the Eagles went 18-0, locking up the number one overall seed and then running the table in the tournament. They are the first Atlantic Sun team since 1993 to win all their conference games both in the season and tournament. They also had the most wins by an Atlantic Sun team since 1998. Both of those marks were set by Florida International.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Head Coach Karl Smesko, the chairman of the Women’s Mid-Major Top 25 where the Eagles were a consistent third all season, said “I’m telling you, this group can win games in the NCAA tournament.” The great team defense and prolific three-point shooting that has carried them all year will continue to do so in the Big Dance. FGCU won the tourney with wins over East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State and Stetson.

2012 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Championship— First Round
(1) Florida Gulf Coast 79, (8) East Tennessee State 63
(2) Stetson 72, (7) USC-Upstate 59
(3) Belmont 58, (6) Jacksonville 62
(4) North Florida 49, (5) Kennesaw State 51

After the first day saw the top two seeds advance, the second set of games were home to the two upsets of the women’s championships. FGCU and Stetson both received opponents that were not expected to make it out of the first round. The Kennesaw State Owls upset North Florida after being down by as much as seven with three minutes to play. Taylor Mills finished with 16 points, with 13 coming in the closing half to bring the Owls back. Later in the day, sixth seeded Jacksonville overturned a nine-point halftime deficit to stun the Belmont Bruins. JU’s Abril Peeples scored 13 in the second half, pushing her game-high total to 22.

Semifinals
(1) FGCU 76, (5) KSU 53
(2) Stetson 67, (6) Jacksonville 60

The marquee matchup in the Atlantic Sun stayed on target to happen after the top two seeds rolled into the final. Florida Gulf Coast won handily, and Stetson never trailed in their contest. The Eagles had three players in double figures, and it was enough to repulse any effort from Kennesaw. Stetson’s Victoria McGowan, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, had 21 in the win.

Finals
(1) FGCU 67, (2) Stetson 39

The FGCU Eagles never trailed in their comprehensive victory over the 2011 Champion Stetson Hatters. From the opening three, their foot was collectively on the throttle, blitzing the Hatters into poor shots and 19 turnovers. Sarah Hansen scored 16, Courtney Chihil had 15 and Eglah Griffin added 11 as the Eagles shot prolifically. Victoria McGowan did have 17 for the Hatters, but it wasn’t enough, as FGCU secured the Atlantic Sun’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

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