Behind 26 points from Kaneisha Atwater, FGCU defeated Oklahoma State, 75-67, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, giving the Eagles their first tourney win in program history.
In a rematch of last year's game, Florida Gulf Coast started off strong against the Cowgirls. Stephanie Haas and Kaneisha Atwater had their way getting to the hoop, and the Eagles opened up a 19-10 lead. OSU went zone but FGCU was able to hit three long range shots, even though it wasn't their best shooting half.
But Oklahoma State capitalized on numerous missed layups by FGCU and went on a run late in the first half. Roddricka Patton, who averaged just 1.6 points this season, had 14 first half points as the Eagles neutralized OSU's main scoring options. Jenna Cobb hit a clutch layup with time expiring at the half to give FGCU a 36-31 lead into the locker room.
While Whitney Knight struggled from the three point line, she managed to do damage in the lane, contributing to the Eagles' 30 points in the paint. The Kaneisha Atwater continued in the second half as well. But both Knight and Atwater found themselves in foul trouble after the break. Despite having three or fouls most of the second half, the duo stayed on the floor due to Smesko's trust in his players.
Florida Gulf Coast held a 17 point lead with 4:37 remaining and unlike previous years, they kept their foot on the gas pedal. They closed out the game as both Haas and Atwater hit timely free throws.
Knight (19 points), Cobb (10 points), Atwater (26 points) all finished in double digit scoring while DyTeisha Dunson dished four assists. FGCU shot 11/32 (34%) from three point range. The No. 7 seeded Eagles now face off against No. 2 seed FSU at 6:00 pm ET on Monday on ESPNU.