Winthrop and Atlantic-Sun Conference regular season champion Florida Gulf Coast will meet for the first time on Thursday night in the first round of the 2013 Women’s National Invitational Tournament in Fort Myers, it was announced late Monday night by the WNIT selection committee.
The game is set to tip off at 7 p.m. and will be audio streamed on the Winthrop Athletics website at www.winthropeagles.com.
For Winthrop this game will mark the second WNIT appearance for the Eagles in the past four years. Winthrop’s only other postseason appearance came in a 2009 WNIT loss at Georgetown. Florida Gulf Coast, which has dominated the A-Sun since becoming a NCAA Division I member in 2008, is making its fifth WNIT appearance after compiling a 27-6 overall record and breezing through the A-Sun with its second straight unblemished 18-0 record and fourth straight regular season league title.
“Florida Gulf Coast has a very sound and experienced team,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “Obviously our work is cut out for us. They have a balanced scoring attack with the ability to shoot the three ball very well. We will have to do a good job of defending the perimeter.”
To show how much FGCU relies on the 3-ball, the Eagles have launched 930 threes and connected on 307. Nearly half of their total field goal attempts (1,898) have come from long distance. By comparison, Winthrop is 196 of 579 on 3-point shooting this year.
The FGCU Eagles are 13-1 this season on their home court at 4,500-seat Alico Arena, and had a 21-game winning streak and a 41-game winning streak against A-Sun opponents ended with a 70-64 loss to No. 2 seed Stetson in the conference championship game. Winthrop’s first round opponent is also ranked No. 11 in the latest Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Poll. FGCU has played five teams that received bids to the NCAA tournament and went 4-2 in those games with two wins over Stetson and victories over LSU and Hampton. The losses were against South Carolina and DePaul in the Paradise Jam.
Winthrop enters tournament play with a 20-11 overall record. The Eagles were the No. 2 seed going into the Big South Championship after compiling a 14-4 league record, but were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Longwood, 79-67, on March 8. Winthrop and FGCU have not played any common opponents this year.
Winthrop is led by two-time Big South Conference Player of the Year Dequesha McClanahan who led the conference in scoring (19.9) and assists (5.9) for the second straight season. The 5-8 junior point guard is only 43 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in Winthrop women’s history. The team’s only senior is 5-10 shooting guard Diana Choibekova, a long distance marksman and All-Big South Second Team selection who is averaging 14.6 points per game had ranks third in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game with a 3.36 average.
The Eagles have also gotten strong contributions from a pair of freshman this year. Schaquilla Nunn, a 6-3 center, was voted Big South Freshman of the Year after ranking second in the conference in rebounding (10.1) and blocked shots (3.36). Her blocked shot average also ranks her sixth nationally. The other freshman is 5-9 guard Aliyah Kilpatrick who averaged 10.5 points per game and led Winthrop in steals with 2.4 per game.
FGCU is led in scoring by Sarah Hansen who averages 16.5 points per game and Joyce Iamstrong with a 12.0 average. As a team, the Eagles are outscoring their opponents by 18 points per game.