For the FGCU women’s basketball team, the understanding that there are no second chances in March is one that has been made very painfully clear.
They’ve learned it twice, in 2013 and 2016, in late defeats in the conference tournament final.
So they didn’t need the reminder that came when the FGCU men lost their conference final at home to Lipscomb on Sunday to keep them focused on the task at hand, as they play host to those same Bisons in their Atlantic Sun semifinal on Wednesday.
“It’s March. Things can slip easily,” Eagles senior China Dow said after the Eagles a little closer than expected 83-62 win over NJIT in the conference quarterfinal. “You see teams losing all the time, No. 1 teams, No. 2 teams. You can’t have a slipup like that.”
The Lipscomb team on the men’s draw was a much different beast than the once the FGCU women play Wednesday, but there are still a few things to watch out for.
“If we give them open looks, they’re going to put them in,” senior Taylor Gradinjan said. “We’re going to have to stop that. They’re all really good shooters, so it’s less help on drive and make sure we make them inconsistent.”
The Bisons(12-18, 7-7) have the ASUN Player of the Year in Loren Cagle. Cagle was a little bit of a surprise choice, playing on the fourth-place team in the conference, but the senior led the league in scoring this season at 17.6 points per game and also led the league in assists.
But the Eagles(28-4, 13-1) held Cagle to just 10 points in their 88-52 win on Feb. 17.
“The first time she hit us for 20 though. She’s more than capable,” Eagles coach Karl Smesko said. “And she’s not their only good player so you can’t load up.”
Still, it would be a monumental shock if the Eagles were to see their season end Wednesday. FGCU and Lipscomb have played each other 22 times. The Eagles have won all 22.
The Bisons crushed Kennesaw State in their Friday quarterfinal by an ASUN record margin, 95-53. In that game, Cagle had a double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Bisons hit 16-of-31 from three.
“I think Lipscomb is very dangerous, they’re a very good three-point shooting team,” Smesko said. “They’re somebody who is very difficult to guard.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
Check Cagle – Cagle isn’t dangerous because of her scoring, but because she’s a do-it-all player. She leads the conference in scoring and assists, is second in steals, fourth in made threes, and eighth in rebounds. As Cagle goes, so do the Bisons. Rosemarie Julien and Erica Nelson, the two FGCU players who tend to guard the point, will have their hands full.
Ball Movement – Lipscomb has a tendency to play zone, typically a risky proposition against a three-point shooting team like FGCU. But the zone can frustrate an offense if it can’t keep the ball moving to find the open shooter. In February, FGCU hit 20 threes, that’s the kind of night they’re looking for here.
NO. 1 FGCU vs. NO. 4 LIPSCOMB
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Alico Arena, Fort Myers
Live Updates: @ByRJRoan(Twitter)
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