Fort Myers, FL — With only one quarter left in the game, and the lead keeping an unsteady rhythm, the FGCU Eagles didn't let their feathers get ruﬄed by the pressure. Instead, they shifted their perspective, stuck together in a way that was seemingly eﬀortless, and kept their (Eagle) eye on the prize.
The Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles (11-3) hosted the Harvard Crimsons (5-5) at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Florida, with only one thing in mind: victory.
Everyone in the arena was feeling the intensity beaming off these players. Right off the bat, FGCU’s Rosemarie Julien was flying through the Harvard women, as if she knew exactly what their next move was going to be, thus giving her the opportunity to not only make the first shot of the game, but also the first three-point shot.
The Eagles stayed ahead for the majority of the first period, except for when they momentarily let their guard down and allowed Harvard to tie the score at 10 with 4:30 left in the quarter. From the looks of it, that was all the warning FGCU needed to realized they couldn't afford another mistake like that.
Jessica Cattani came out on the court and aided in building back up the score for the Eagles with her swift and seemingly graceful strides from one side of the court to the other. Not to forget her partner in crime, Nasrin Ulel, who was easily the fastest player on the court tonight. These two were able to help FGCU hang on to a 29-25 lead to close out the first half.
Hitting a bit of a plateau in the third, FGCU lost the momentum that was keeping them ahead in the first half of the game. Using this to their advantage, the Crimson found the a crack in the Eagles’ nest and performed the unthinkable. With 0.40 seconds left in the third, Harvard’s Madeline Raster whipped out a three-point jumper putting her team ahead by two, 42-40.
Then—in that same final minute— FGCU put their wings up and China Dow followed up with a three-point field goal of her own, grabbing the lead back right before the buzzer. The third period closed out with the Eagles hanging on by one point, 43-42.
When asked what she thinks may have hindered her team’s ability to keep the lead in tonight’s game, Harvard Head Coach, Kathy Delaney-Smith replied, “Well, Florida Gulf Coast, to be honest with you. Karl runs a great program and he is one of the best.”
As if the game hadn’t caused enough anticipation and nail-biting, the final quarter of this game was a constant back and forth for the lead. From a layup by Harvard’s Nani Redford, to a direct follow-up three-point jumper by FGCU’s Cattani, this pattern drove a wave of vigor through the crowd.
“We had to show who had more heart,” explained the Eagle’s Julien. “And I knew I had more heart. We brought each other up and kept reminding ourselves of the most important points to winning this game.”
The Eagles knew that they had to stick together during those final seconds — and they did just that. With a1:44 remaining, Sydney Skinner made a jumper to give Harvard a one-point lead, 56-55. From there, FGCU’s defense smothered the Crimson, not allowing them to score for the rest of the game.
With their defense on lock, FGCU went on a a 10-0 run in the final minute to claim a 65-56 victory.
“This was a game where everybody had to compete the whole time” state FGCU’s head coach Karl Smesko. “I think those things are good for you — it builds toughness, it builds character. It gives you some conﬁdence in those situations where you're actually able to make the plays at the end to win.”
Both teams won't have much time to recover, as FGCU plays host to Southern Illinois tomorrow evening, while Harvard goes against Akron.
SiriusXM Radio's David Moulton gives his THOUGHTS on this CRITICAL GAME!Posted by Swish Appeal on Wednesday, December 20, 2017