To the NCAAs: FGCU tops Jacksonville for A-Sun title, 68-58
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — It took Florida Gulf Coast the better part of three quarters to find its best stride.
That left the Eagles plenty of time.
Rose Julien scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half, China Dow and Lisa Zderadicka came off the bench to combine for 35 more and top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast topped second-seeded Jacksonville 68-58 on Sunday for the Atlantic Sun Conference title as well as the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
It’s the third 30-win season in the last four years for FGCU, which is headed to the NCAAs for the fifth time in the last seven seasons. The Eagles (30-4) finished 18-0 at home and have won 10 straight overall.
Jacksonville (24-8) led by five in the third quarter, then missed seven of its next eight shots and the game turned in a hurry. Zderadicka scored seven points in a 15-2 run, capped by Taylor Gradinjan’s 3-pointer that put the Eagles up 47-39 late in the third.
Naqaiyyah Teague scored 13 and Shakayla Nevitt added 12 for the Dolphins, who went 0-3 against FGCU this season.
FGCU led the nation in 3-pointers entering Sunday, averaging 12.2 per game. Jacksonville held the Eagles to a total of 12 3s in their two regular-season meetings, and clamped down again in the title game — keeping FGCU from connecting on any in the game’s first 15 minutes.
Turns out, the Eagles don’t need to go wild from beyond the arc to win.
And when the Dolphins took 3s away, the Eagles went into attack mode.
With Dow getting into the paint and Julien slashing through on drives, the Eagles eventually found their rhythm. Julien got herself free for an wide-open layup off a feed by Zderadicka with 5:03 left for FGCU’s first double-digit lead of the day at 59-48 — the 10th paint basket in a span of 12 field goals for the Eagles.
FGCU finished 5 for 15 from 3-point range, but wound up with an 18-9 edge in second-chance points.
Zderadicka scored at least 15 points in a game twice this season — both times against Jacksonville. She averaged 7.1 points for the season entering Sunday’s title game.
MADE FOR MARCH
Since going to Division I a decade ago, FGCU is 39-11 in games played during the month of March.
Jacksonville lost three games since the calendar flipped to 2018 — all three to FGCU. The Dolphins’ eight-game winning streak entering Sunday was a season-best, and they also had a six-win streak snapped by FGCU on Jan. 27.