(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
There was no NCAA record this time around, but the result was the same for the Florida Gulf Coast women’s basketball team.
The Eagles did most of their damage from 3-point range and beat a short-handed East Tennessee State team 70-45 Thursday night at the MSHA Athletic Center. It was their 10th consecutive win over the Lady Bucs.
FGCU set the NCAA record for 3-pointers in a game here last year, making 22 shots from beyond the arc. The Eagles missed their first eight on Thursday, but rallied for a 33-17 halftime lead by scoring the final nine points of the first half. It was punctuated at the buzzer by a swish from 3-point range by Katie Meador.
They finished 14 for 36 from 3-point range.
“A lot of people think you should probably stop if you’re not making them, but then you never know what you would do afterwards,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “Our philosophy is if it’s an open shot in the rhythm of our offense, you take it.”
ETSU (7-14 overall, 3-7 Atlantic Sun Conference) simply didn’t have the firepower to come back. Four players who started against FGCU last season were watching the game in street clothes with various injuries. Leading scorer Cara Bowling has been out in recent weeks with a hip injury. Guard Shawn Randall is out indefinitely with a broken left hand and forward Tiana Burley was also missing after being hospitalized with anemia last week.
In addition, all-conference forward Destiny Mitchell is red-shirting this season because of a knee injury.
The walking wounded left ETSU with eight healthy players.
“It makes it very difficult,” ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. “We have a tendency to feel sorry for ourselves sometimes. I think they know me by now to know I don’t. No one in the league feels sorry for us. We try to tell them the truth and the truth is you’ve got to show a little more guts and play a little harder.”
Bowling is expected back for Saturday’s home game against Stetson and Burley should be able to return to practice soon.
“ETSU’s a good team when everybody’s healthy,” Smesko said. “Unfortunately they’re playing really short-handed right now. I think Coach Ezell does a great job and is going to do great things here.”
FGCU jumped ahead 47-27 early in the second half before Shamauria Bridges got the Bucs back into the game. The freshman guard scored eight straight points as ETSU cut the deficit to 10 at 49-39 with 9:04 left.
But the Eagles answered with — what else — three consecutive 3-pointers for a more comfortable 58-39 advantage. They outscored ETSU 21-6 over the final nine minutes.
“We cut it to 10 and we call timeout and we lose focus, and when you lose focus against Florida Gulf Coast, they hit threes,” Ezell said. “That’s what they do.”
Bridges led ETSU with 13 points. Brianna McQueen went 6 for 20 from the field for 12 points. Forward Serena Clark, who averages a double-double, didn’t make a field goal and finished with two points and six rebounds. Chandler Christopher had eight rebounds.
Jenna Cobb led FGCU with 14 points, making 3 of 5 from 3-point range. DyTiesha Dunson added 11 and Sarah Hansen and Meador each had 10. Seven different FGCU players made at least one 3-pointer.
The Eagles improved to 15-7, 9-1 in the A-Sun. They had lost their last outing to Northern Kentucky. It was a rare regular-season conference loss, breaking a 44-game winning streak.