Atwater leads FGCU to 17th straight win at home

Author: Jamie Church
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. – With a new FGCU Division I single-game record of 33 points from Kaneisha Atwater, the FGCU women’s basketball team outlasted Providence College 68-58 Thursday night at Alico Arena. With the win, the Eagles improve to 7-2 on the season, while the Friars return to New England with a mark of 3-7.

Backed by a stellar start from Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Westwood High School/VCU) and a shooting percentage above 60 percent, the Eagles took hold of the game with a double-figure lead in the first half. The Friars cut the lead to just one point midway through the second half but ended the game with just two field goals in their final 10 attempts. The Eagles sealed the win with eight points in the final four minutes to move to 5-0 at home on the year with a 17-game win streak at Alico dating back to the 2013-14 season.

“We played really well in the very first part of the game. In the first 10 minutes of the game we really pushed the ball in conversion and got a lot of easy shots,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Defensively, we did really well in the first 10-12 minutes but we were a little sloppy after that. They have some great players and they got it going with great energy in the second half. They outplayed us for much of the second half but fortunately Whitney [Knight] was helping us on the boards big time and Atwater was getting to the rim for big baskets when we needed it most.”

In addition to Atwater’s 33-point performance, the Eagles also saw double figures from junior Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School), who recorded her second double-double of the season with 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

Atwater went 11-for-18 from the field with eight made free throws on 11 attempts and added two assists and four steals in the win, while Knight led all players with two blocks and added two steals to the team’s total. Atwater’s new record surpassed Adrianne McNally’s 32 points scored against Kennesaw State during the 2008-09 season. She was just five points short of the all-time single-game scoring record, set by Andrea Clarke in 2004.

As a unit, the Eagles outshot the Friars with a total mark of 51.1 percent, while holding PC to a 41 percent success rate. Despite not attempting a three for the first 13 minutes of action, the Green and Blue finished with seven made long shots on 19 attempts.  The teams were even with 33 rebounds and 18 turnovers each.

Providence got on the scoreboard first but the Friar lead was short lived as Atwater quickly drove to the basket to even the score. Atwater pushed forward and scored eight of the Eagles’ first 10 points, all on layups, to give the home team a 10-6 lead four minutes into the contest.
Atwater’s streak propelled the Eagles to a nine-point run before five-straight points from Knight increased the Green and Blue lead to 17-6.

The Eagles created a 19-10 advantage in the first eight minutes without a 3-point attempt and forged ahead with drives to the basket. Through the first 13 minutes of action, the Eagles shot 85.7 from the field while holding the Friars to 10-of-24.

A Knight 3-pointer – the team’s first of the game – cut the Eagle long-range drought with 6:16 left to play and pushed the advantage to 12 points. The 3-pointer was part of an eight-point run that pushed the momentum in FGCU’s favor and moved the lead to a game-high 15 points.

The Friars used a 9-3 run late in the half to bring the deficit to nine points but the Eagles continued the hot shooting and finished the half with a 61.5 percent clip from the field to hold onto a double-digit advantage. Led by 15 points from Atwater, the home team entered the break with a 42-30 lead.

Atwater’s hot streak continued into the second half but the Friars were quick to respond with three long-range shots in the opening minutes. With an 11-5 run, the visitors cut the deficit to just six points five minutes into the second half and continued to push the Eagles.

PC added another six-point run near the 13-minute mark to bring the score to 49-47 but an Atwater 3-ball one minute later increased the deficit again.

Midway through the half, the Friars used another small spurt to cut the Eagle lead to just one point at 54-53 but a free throw from Knight and another clutch 3-pointer from Atwater pushed the Eagles ahead when they needed it most. Atwater’s shot gave the Green and Blue a 58-53 lead with seven minutes remaining and was followed by two free throws from DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School).

The Friars again cut the deficit to three points with four minutes on the clock but a drive to the rim from Atwater followed by a long-range shot from the corner by Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace High School/Butler) moved the score to 65-57 and forced PC into a timeout with 3:23 to play.

Atwater added three more points in the final three minutes, while the Eagles allowed just one free throw to bring the final score to 68-58 in favor of the home team.

The Eagles break for the weekend before hitting the road again for an in-state battle at Bethune-Cookman. The bout against the Wildcats in Daytona Beach is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.