SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FGCU Athletics) Head coach Karl Smesko earned his 400th career victory as the FGCU women’s basketball team earned its fifth-straight Atlantic Sun Conference Regular Season Championship with a 75-59 win at USC Upstate Saturday afternoon. The Eagles pick up their sixth title in seven seasons and move to 25-2 on the season with a 20-game win streak and an unblemished mark of 12-0 in conference play with the win, while Upstate falls to 13-14 and 5-7 in conference action.
The nationally ranked Eagles took a 6-0 lead to start and never let go of the advantage. Upstate challenged the Eagles in the first half but after holding a 41-31 lead at the break, the Green and Blue consistently increased the deficit with perimeter shooting and extended the advantage to 19 points midway through the second half. Backed by a career-high in 3-pointers made from junior Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School), the team made 10 shots from beyond-the-arc with a 45.8 percent success rate from the floor to earn their 20th-straight win.
Knight paced all players with 26 points on the afternoon, just two shy of her career high. She set a new career best with six made 3-pointers on nine attempts and pulled down a team-best eight rebounds with three blocks, three assists and two steals. The Eagles saw a well-rounded scoring effort with another 17 points from Kaneisha Atwater (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce-Westwood High School/VCU) and 12 from Katie Meador (Salem, Ill./Salem Community High School).
As a unit, the Eagles shot 45.8 percent from the field with a 38.5 percent clip from 3-point range. The team outrebounded USC Upstate 35-33 and made 11-of-14 free throws. Led by five from DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School), the team dished out 18 assists and forced 15 Upstate turnovers, while holding the Spartans to a 42.1 percent success rate from the floor. Upstate went just 2-for-12 from the perimeter but knocked in 9-of-10 shots from the charity stripe.
The Eagles, who now hold home-court advantage with the No. 1 seed through the entire Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, will head to Jacksonville, Fla. Wednesday, Feb. 25 for a mid-week matchup with North Florida before hosting Jacksonville University Saturday night at Alico Arena to conclude the regular season.