Second-half surge propels No. 23 women’s basketball past Liberty, 73-69
FORT MYERS, Florida. – After trailing by 14 points with 3:16 left in the third quarter, the No. 23 FGCU women’s basketball team rallied against Liberty in the 12:09 final game to earn a victory of 73-69 Saturday night at Alico Arena. The win took the Eagles to 15-1 on aggregate and 4-0 in ASUN action, while Liberty fell to 15-2 on aggregate and 3-1 in the league.
“Obviously it was a very difficult match against an exceptional team. They were physical and they gave us everything we could have asked for,” said the head coach. Karl Smesko. “We managed to make a run from the end of the third quarter and that motivated everyone even more before the fourth.”
Kierstan Bell scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half while adding a team-high seven rebounds for the game. She scored nine points in the third quarter, all in 1 minute and 23 seconds, in an 11-0 run to pull the Eagles into one possession, 55-52, with 46 seconds left. In the fourth quarter, she added 11 more points, including a pair of three-pointers to cut the lead to two before the other put FGCU ahead 67-65 at 2:54. His last six points of the night came in a 16-on-5 run with which FGCU closed out the game for the comeback victory.
Tishara Morehouse added 11 points, while Kerstie Phils and Kendall Vaporizer each had nine points.
The Flames had four players in double figures led by 15 from Dee Brown and Priscilla Smeenge. Bridgette Rettstatt had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Mya Berkman had 10 points.
The Flames took a 41-33 lead at intermission thanks to a 12-on-4 run in the final 4:38 before halftime.
An 8-on-2 run for Liberty swelled the lead to 49-35 with 6:05 left in third. From there, it was all FGCU as Bell helped spark the run to close the quarter to pull the Eagles in the five heading for fourth.
Five early runs for Bell in the fourth cut the deficit to 59-57, but Liberty was able to make a five-run run to move up seven at 6:47. Layups from Karlie Seay and Bell surrounding a three-point Spray tied the game at 64-64 with just over five minutes remaining. After the game was tied again at 67-67, the Eagles were able to secure enough defensive saves, including a five-second call on an inbound play, which led to six free throws in the stretch to seal victory.
The victory improved FGCU to 9-0 all-time against Liberty and was the 26and straight win over an ASUN foe to extend their third-place streak in the nation behind UConn and Princeton.
The Eagles next play at Stetson next Wednesday night before heading to Jacksonville State on Saturday afternoon. The FGCU’s next home game is January 27 against Eastern Kentucky at Alico Arena.
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Do you enjoy watching or following the FGCU women’s basketball program? Would you like to play a role in the growth of the program and help it reach heights never reached before? If so, you can contact Director of Advancement, Matt Ring, to learn about opportunities to impact the experiences of our student-athletes. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by desk phone at 239-745-4434.
FGCU Head Coach Karl Smesko maintains a career record of 592-126 (.825) overall, which is the third-highest winning percentage among active Division I coaches behind only UConn’s Geno Auriemma and LSU’s Kim Mulkey. He also led the Eagles to a 219-17 (.928) ASUN regular season record and 27-2 (.931) ASUN tournament record. Over the past 10 seasons, he has guided FGCU to a 153-5 (.968) conference record with six undefeated seasons. The 11-time ASUN Coach of the Year has led the program to 11 straight 25-win seasons and 17 straight 20-win campaigns, including more than 30 wins in four of the last seven years. On top of all that, the Eagles have an all-time 531-99 (.842) record since Smesko started the program in the 2002-03 season, and the Greens’ all-time .843 winning percentage. and Blues is the best in NCAA Division I. the history of women’s basketball.
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics Charities of Choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/adminservices/foodpantry and use the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
ABOUT THE FGCU
FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 87 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 14+ seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just nine seasons of DI playoff eligibility, the Eagles have brought together 43 teams or individuals competing in NCAA championships. Eight FGCU programs ranked in the top 25 nationally in their respective sports, including women’s basketball (#25, 2021-22), beach volleyball (#20, 2021) and men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s football. (2018) as three of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Vert et Bleu posted the department’s best sixth place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top 100 nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and Florida State’s top seven teams won the NCAA Public Recognition Award for their rate of academic progression in their sport. FGCU also collectively achieved a record 3.50 classroom GPA in the fall 2020 semester and outperformed the general undergraduate college population for 24 consecutive semesters. The Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 semesters each saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a team GPA of 3.0 or higher in each. The Eagles also served an all-time high of 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two finalists for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.