FORT MYERS, Fla. - FGCU defeated Michigan 71-62 in front of a program-record crowd of 4,633 fans to become the first Atlantic Sun Women's Basketball team to advance to the WNIT Championship Final in league history. The Eagles extended their A-Sun record for wins in a single season to 33 and will travel to South Dakota on Saturday to take on the Coyotes at 3 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.
Stephanie Haas, one of nine FGCU seniors playing their final game in Alico Arena, scored a game-high 20 points off the bench and was helped offensively by 18 points from Kaneisha Atwater and 17 from A-Sun Player of the Year, Whitney Knight. The Eagles closed on a 12-2 run over the final 2:47 to improve to 33-5 on the season. The Wolverines close the season with a 21-14 record and fall in the WNIT semifinals for the second-straight season.
FGCU scored the opening bucket of the game on a Jaime Gluesing three-pointer from the corner, but the Wolverines responded with a 9-0 run. FGCU regrouped and went on an 11-0 run of its own in the final four minutes of the first quarter, as Katie Meador, Knight and Atwater connected on triples and the Eagles led 16-11 after one quarter.
In the second period, the Eagles once again used the three ball as Atwater knocked down her second triple of the game to help the Eagles maintain the lead. The Wolverines got six points from their top-scorer Katelynn Flaherty but were unable to score in the final two minutes of the half. FGCU took a 28-22 lead into the break as the Eagles scored 11 points off 10 Michigan turnovers in the first two periods.
The Eagles began the second half on a 9-3 run and opened a double-digit lead after Haas and DyTiesha Dunson made back-to-back layups. The Wolverines responded with Madison Ristovski, who made two three-pointers and scored eight points in the first five minutes of the quarter. Ristovski ignited the Michigan offense as they trimmed the Eagles' lead from 37-27 to 47-45 after a Nicole Munger bucket and foul to close the quarter.
In the final quarter, Haas took over as she scored nine of her 20 points in the final period to help the Eagles hold off any comeback efforts from the Wolverines. With 3:55 to go, Haas scored on a patented scoop layup to give the Eagles a 59-55 lead, but Michigan scored the next five points to take their first lead since the second quarter at 60-59 with 2:47 to go. Haas responded with a three-pointer on the next possession to put the Eagles up for good at 62-60. Atwater followed with her fourth three of the game to push the lead to 65-60 and Michigan never recovered.
The Eagles will now travel to South Dakota for the 2016 WNIT Championship Final to take on the Coyotes who defeated Oregon in the other semifinal. FGCU is the first A-Sun Women's Basketball team to play in the WNIT final. They have now won five postseason games in this WNIT run, more than doubling their previous postseason wins.
FGCU vs. Michigan WNIT Tournament Notes
- Whitney Knight blocked three more shots tonight to extend her A-Sun career record to 324. She now has 39-straight games with at least one block.
- Stephanie Haas recorded her first 20-point game of the season, fifth of her career. She is one of only nine FGCU players to score more than 1,000 career points. She now sits on 1,124 career points, 78th in A-Sun history.
- Kaneisha Atwater made four trifectas for only the second time all season, first since January 11 against NJIT. Atwater now has 74 total points in her last four WNIT games.
- FGCU extended its Division I era and A-Sun single-season record for most wins to 33 tonight. The Eagles have played 38 games in the 2015-16 season, which also is a league record for most games played.
- The Eagles improved to 19-0 when making 10 or more threes in a single game this season. FGCU connected on 11 shots from behind the arc tonight.