Fort Myers, FL -- Lots of energy filled Alico Arena before the Jacksonville Dolphins and Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles took the court. After a week of hype, it was obvious that FGCU was ready to dominate.
Knight and Dawkins tipped off and the ball goes to the Eagle's Taylor Gradinjan, but no points were put up by either team in the first three minutes. JU's coach already stated earlier this week this game would be different than last year, maybe she was right as they held them scoreless for that long.
The Dolphins' Briona Brown was the first to put up points for Jacksonville. Then, Knight responded after missing a lay-up to get the Eagles their well known shot, a three pointer. Not only did she knock down the three, she was fouled--cardinal sin to foul a shooter--she completed the four point play making her free-throw; tie game 4-4.
After the first time out, Dolphin Christin Mercer, put up two points. With three minutes left in the first, the score was 12-6 Eagles. Both teams took turns making shots, and the final score at the end of the first was 16-10 Eagles.
Then when it was two minutes left in the second, the Dolphins defense got serious, and Brandi Buie stole the ball and assisted Briona Brown with a layup. After that, the two teams threw the ball around trying to put up points. The final score at the end of the first half was 29-16 Eagles.
FGCU's Katie Meador was the first to put up points on the board at the start of the second quarter and shortly after shoots a three. Meador was ready to own that second quarter and was on fire to come back from that knee injury.
In fact, she went on her own personal run, 11-0 in that quarter. As she continued to cut, her teammates continued to feed her the ball where she finished in the lane. Meador stated she was able to get her career high because of her teammates.
"If it wasn't for my team I wouldn't have scored the points that I had," said Meador.
Even Coach Smesko was very impressed with his senior's performance, "Katie Meador had an outstanding game and first half especially, Katie is realizing she's been playing a lot better in practice, and now it's translated to how it was before."
Suffering an ACL injury late last year before the NCAA tournament, it's a great sign for Coach Smesko to his senior playing well in a game whose winner would sit alone in the number one spot in conference.
And just because the Eagles brought it in the first and were in the lead, that didn't stop them from bringing the heat in the second. In the middle of the second quarter, the Eagles were up by 14 points, and Jacksonville had only put up three points. Reenergized after the break, the Eagles made sure to work to keep the Dolphins out of the game.
Jaime Gluesing started off the third quarter by putting up two more points for the Eagles. Whitney Knight with another three-pointer for the game and it was nothing but net. In the middle of the third the score had ballooned to 38-24 Eagles.
Christin Mercer and Jasmyn Brown started helping out Jacksonville, and each put up points to try and keep the score from getting out of hand. Dolphin, Briona Brown, ended the third with a lay-up , yet it wasn't enough, ending the third still down, 45-31.
Kaneisha Atwater played aggressive in the fourth and wanted to finish strong for FGCU. Atwater scored a three, made her foul shots, drove to the basket and more. The more being her hustle to always be the first to a loose ball, a trait many Eagle fans are use to seeing from the senior guard.
She wanted to go home with a victory, well she did. With lots of hype all week, the Eagles made sure to protect the nest, as well as be the only team in first place for the Atlantic Sun.
"I thought our defense was excellent, and everybody was contributing and just playing great defense out there. A whole team effort defensively of everyone doing their job and knowing the game plan," said Smesko.
If he can continue to keep his team playing as a unit on defense, this team can continue to do well. What's eye opening is FGCU was able to dominate JU 58-39, who came into the game undefeated as well.
Note: Jacksonville head coach Yolett McCuin did not speak with the media after the game, but she did have time to post this tweet afterwards:
We lost tonight to a really good veteran team. We will adjust, trust me. On to the Next, no time to fret over the past. #NoCeilings— Yolett McCuin (@CoachYoJU) February 5, 2016