Jacksonville knocks off FGCU for A-Sun title, 56-54
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Brandi Buie sent Jacksonville to the NCAA Tournament, and handed Florida Gulf Coast a stunning loss.
Buie's baseline jumper with 3.1 seconds left gave Jacksonville its only lead of the second half, and the Dolphins upset FGCU 56-54 on Sunday afternoon to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title and league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Buie scored 16 points for the Dolphins (22-10), who trailed by 13 midway through the third quarter. Sherranda Reddick had 11 points and Jasmyn Brown finished with 10 for Jacksonville, which had lost its last 18 meetings with FGCU.
''We knew we had to come to play,'' Brown said. ''We knew this wasn't going to be an easy game. We played great defense, we knew we could do it and we never gave up on it.''
Kaneisha Atwater scored 22 points for FGCU (28-5), which had its 21-game winning streak snapped. It was also the first time in 72 games that FGCU lost to an A-Sun opponent at home.
Whitney Knight scored 17 for the Eagles, missing a baseline jumper that could have tied it on the game's final shot. The Eagles, as the A-Sun regular season champions, are assured a berth in the WNIT - but are hoping for an at-large selection.
''I definitely feel, since the time we got Whit back, we've been one of the top 25 or 30 teams in the country,'' said FGCU coach Karl Smesko, whose Eagles won an NCAA Tournament game last season and were without Knight because of injury at the start of this season. ''That's something that's supposed to factor in. ... We have some quality wins. There's going to be some teams on the bubble, like us. Just hope they pick us.''
Jacksonville closed the game on a 15-5 run, with Buie scoring seven of those points as the Dolphins kept chipping away.
Jacksonville got within one point on three occasions in the fourth, the first two of those prompting an answer from Knight. She made a 3-pointer to thwart the first threat, then drove to put her team up 54-51 with 4:15 left.
Neither team scored for the next three minutes, and the Eagles wouldn't score again. Buie scored inside to get Jacksonville within one, and Brown made the second of two foul shots with 34.9 seconds left to knot the game.
On the next FGCU possession, Atwater fouled out on a charge call, and that set up Buie's heroics.
Jacksonville started the game on an 8-2 run, then managed just eight more points in the next 13 minutes as the Eagles built a 10-point lead late in the second quarter. The margin grew to 13 midway through the third, before the Dolphins closed the quarter with a 9-0 spurt to get within 43-39 heading into the final 10 minutes.
''We have a lot of momentum right now,'' Brown said. ''Wherever we go, we'll be ready.''
Jacksonville: The Dolphins have won eight straight. They had a seven-game streak earlier this season snapped by FGCU. ... Jacksonville avenged last year's A-Sun Tournament loss to FGCU, a 62-42 defeat in the semifinals. ... Jacksonville trailed for nearly 30 of the game's 40 minutes.
FGCU: It was Atwater's 100th game at FGCU, after spending her freshman season at VCU. ... FGCU fell to 13-2 all-time in A-Sun tournament games. ... The Eagles started four seniors.
For the second straight year, there was just one upset in the A-Sun tournament. Higher seeded teams went 6-1 in this year's tourney.
Jacksonville: NCAA Tournament TBA