By MATT SCHOCH
Daily News Staff
ST. THOMAS - The Florida Gulf Coast women's basketball team was a late add in the Paradise Jam tournament after Mississippi State decided not to come down to the Virgin Islands.
But teams in the Island Division are probably starting to hope the Eagles turned down the invitation too.
FGCU is in position for the Island title after another rout Friday, this time dispatching of Clemson with a 86-61 victory.
"We were attacking early, and playing with great defensive intensity," said FGCU forward Whitney Knight, who scored 28 points and had seven rebounds. "We've looked forward to this opportunity, and we want to win the tournament. We want to keep our focus, execute a game plan and keep up the intensity, like we did today."
The Eagles (5-1) opened the game with a 23-8 run and would never again lead by less than 10 points.
"I thought we played a really inspired first half," FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. "We played well enough in the first half that we were able to withstand that."
The FGCU lead stretched to as many as 25 points at halftime, and then to 27 points as Clemson coach Audra Smith was assessed a technical foul with 12:31 to play.
The lead would grow to 69-39 as Knight knocked down a 3-pointer with 12:15 left.
"We have come together a lot, especially on the defensive end, knowing that we have to play big schools like this," Knight said. "But we didn't have great defensive intensity in the second half, and we want to make it so it lasts the whole game and not just one half."
Nyilah Jamison-Myers scored 13 points to lead Clemson (3-3), which had 21 turnovers.
Wichita State 70, Ohio State 55
One day after getting routed by Florida Gulf Coast of the Atlantic Sun, Wichita State took it to the Big Ten's Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Shockers (3-2) opened up 24-point leads four times in the second half to cruise to an easy victory that could help the program advance to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance later this year.
It also complicated the championship picture for the Island Division, and left both teams at 1-1 in the Paradise Jam.
"We just shot the ball so poorly (Thursday), which was definitely uncharacteristic of us," Wichita State coach Jody Adams said of the 56-39 loss to Florida Gulf Coast. "Our tempo was better today, we weren't rushed. And we got the ball inside and out."
Michaela Dapprich scored 19 points to lead Wichita State, scoring 11 of her team's first 14 points as
it took an early lead and kept piling on.
Ohio State shot 20 of 53 (38 percent) from the field for the game.
"We wanted them to take tough shots, and tired shots," Adams said. "I have to give my players credit for working well together in what we put in."
Jamillah Boner scored 18 points, and Alex Harden added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Missouri Valley Conference Shockers, who shot 15 of 27 (56 percent) in the second half.
Freshman Kelsey Mitchell scored 19 points to lead Ohio State (3-3) after scoring 35 in its opening game, a win against Clemson.