Florida Gulf Coast used a barrage of 3-pointers to knock off the home-standing Lady Bisons 85-67 in an Atlantic Sun Conference women’s basketball game Thursday night in Allen Arena.
Lipscomb fell to 3-16 overall and 0-8 in league play, while FGCU improved to 14-6 and 8-0 in league play.
“I thought the effort was great tonight from our team,” Lipscomb coach Greg Brown said. “I thought we did a lot of good stuff. Mentally, I thought we executed very well in the first half. They (FGCU) just do a good job of making you pay when you make mistakes.
“And we didn’t’ capitalize enough in the second half when they made their mistakes. Some of that is experience and some of it is just growth that we have to make. But I do think we have grown a lot over the last couple of weeks. We have to have baby –step growth and I definitely think this was a step in the right direction.”
The Lady Bisons played perhaps their best half of the year in the opening 20 minutes. After having multiple games back-to-back where the opposition jumped out to a quick lead, the Lady Bisons decided it was their turn to have a quick start and that is just what they did.
Three different Lady Bisons got into the scoring column early. The team’s leading scorer, Danay Fothergill, started it off with a crossover and a pull-up jumper from the right elbow.
Fothergill then drove down the lane only to dish it to a wide open Sara Bliss in the left corner for a three to make it 5-0 just over three minutes into the game.
Following a Katie Meador three for FGCU, recently activated Chandler Cooper got her first points of the night on a long bomb from the LU logo to make it 8-3 Lipscomb.
The Eagles got it to within two at 11-9 at the 10:29 mark, but Kelli Smith and Elise Spann hit back-to-back baskets to spark a 7-0 run that saw Lipscomb take an 18-9 advantage just under the seven-minute mark.
Lipscomb led for the first 17:24 of the game and led by as many as 10 points, 22-12 at the 5:05 mark. However, the Lady Bisons never could sustain that separation. Kaneisha Atwater scored 10 straight points and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give FGCU its first lead at 27-24 with 2:14 left in the first half.
The Eagles used a 17-2 run to close the half and take a 29-24 lead at the break. “Obviously this was our best start of the year,” Brown said. “That is something to carry forward to Stetson and the second half of conference play. We finally had the same lineup in back-to-back games and that consistently will help us moving forward.”
In the second half, the Lady Bisons had no answer for the 3-point shooting of the Eagles. FGCU entered Thursday’s contest with an A-Sun leading 175 made treys. After the Eagles hit only five in the opening half, they found their stroke in the second and torched the nets by making 10-of-21 shots from downtown.
Brown knew coming in his team had to do a good job defending the 3-point line to pull off an upset. “We knew you can’t give them uncontested shots,” Brown said. “There wasn’t really a number we wanted to limit them to, because they have hit a lot of three’s and won, and also not hit a lot and still won.
“The key we were looking for was contesting them. Because when you don’t contest them, they will knock them down. They did a great job of making us pay because we didn’t do as good a job as we could have.”
Just like she did in the first, Fothergill knocked down a jumper to pull the Lady Bisons to within three at 29-26 just 10 seconds into the second half.
But Sarah Hansen and Stephanie Haas scored 11 consecutive points and FGCU used a 13-4 run to extend its lead to 42-30 at 14:40. Moments later FGCU used a 15-3 run to take a 57-36 lead and put the game out of reach.
“We knew we had to knock down some open shots, which we did early on,” Brown said. “But we have to do that more consistently and not have as many breakdowns defensively. But they (FGCU) are good and have girls that can score.”
One thing Brown liked from his squad was the ability to get to the free throw line. In the previous two games, the Lady Bisons only attempted 21 shots from the charity stripe, making 14. Thursday night in front of the home crowd, Lipscomb knocked down 16-of-20 from the line, including 10-of-12 from Fothergill.
“I thought we did a great job of getting to the free throw line tonight,” Brown said. “We knew they were going to pressure and rotate their defense, so we knew we had to make it to the line.”
For the contest, the Lady Bisons hit 21-of-59 shots from the field for 35.6 percent. Lipscomb also hit 9-of-28 shots from 3-point range (32.1 percent). The Eagles knocked down 29-of-64 shots from the field (45.3 percent), 15-of-38 from 3-point land (39.5 percent) and 12-of-18 from the foul line (66.7 percent).
FGCU held a 43-36 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bisons had 14 assists and 13 turnovers, while the Eagles had 21 assists and 13 turnovers.
Fothergill led all scorers with 20 points. She also was credited with five rebounds and a team-high four assists.
After posting 19 at Northern Kentucky last Saturday, Cooper responded with 16 and a career-high seven boards. She also had three assists and three steals.
Brown likes what he has seen from Cooper in her two games since returning from injury.
“Her feet and ankles are still not there,” Brown said. “She really has only had five or six practices since Dec. 20. So continuity will help us a ton moving forward and as we grow.”
Ashley Southern posted her sixth-straight and 15th double-double of the year, by adding a game-high 12 boards to her 15 points.
Bliss added nine points and six rebounds in 35 minutes of play.
FGCU received 18 points and six rebounds from Hansen, while Atwater added 14 and five.
Jenna Cobb was the only other Eagle in double-figures with 12.
Lipscomb continues its two-game home-swing on Saturday when Stetson visits. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. in Allen Arena with the contest being televised on ESPN3.
“Stetson is long and athletic,” Brown said. “They have a great inside presence so we have to continue what we do defensively with positioning. We also have to limit them to only one shot. That sounds simplistic but it’s the truth. We also have to knock down shots.”