March 6, 2011

Cougars Fall in Title Game to Eagles 73-68

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's upset bid at Florida Gulf Coast University Sunday afternoon fell just short in the championship game of the FGCU Classic from Alico Arena as the Eagles won 73-68.

FGCU extended its home winning streak to 41 games with the win and improved to 27-3 on the year. The loss dropped the Cougars to 11-18 on the season.

"I am extremely proud of our team," said SIUE Head Coach Amanda Levens. "They battled, they fought, and I thought they did everything they could."

For a team that averages more than 10 three-point baskets per game, SIUE held the Eagles to just six, but the game came down to the free throw line.

FGCU made 19 of 23 attempts from the charity stripe while the Cougars converted 3 of 4 chances, all of which came with under four minutes remaining in regulation.

"It's tough to overcome when you only shoot four free throws and the other team shoots 20," added Levens.

Both teams traded baskets early in the game but it was SIUE that was able to claim its largest lead 10-6 after Jazmin Hill drained a three-pointer with 11:03 to play in the first half.

For the rest of the half the lead went back and forth as there were 16 lead changes and 12 times when the score was tied during the game.

Trailing 35-30 at halftime, the Cougars came out firing in the second half with a 7-0 run to take a 37-35 lead highlighted by another three by Hill.

After connecting on five three-point baskets in the opening half, Hill's sixth evened the score 35-35. Her third three-pointer in the opening half at the 5:39 mark set a new SIUE single-season record for three-pointers made by a freshman with 71, passing former standout Whitney Sykes.

FGCU took control of the game and build a nine-point lead with just over 10 minutes to play at 52-43, but the Cougars would not go down quietly.

SIUE chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the game 58-58 after sophomore Raven Berry converted a layup from a great pass by fellow sophomore Courtney Kenner.

The Eagles maintained a slim lead the rest of the way as it came down to free throws. Kenner hit a three-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining to get the Cougars within one at 71-68, but that would be it as FGCU closed the game for the 73-68 victory.

Hill led the Cougars with 20 points going 7 of 11 from the field and was named to the All-Tournament team along with teammate Michaela Herrod. Herrod and Melia Duncan each added 12 points as SIUE had three players reach double figures for the third straight game.

Senior Sydney Stahlberg pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.

FGCU's Sarah Hansen had a career outing scoring 27 points on 12 of 19 shooting to lead the Eagles to the victory. Shannon Murphy joined Hansen in double figures with 12 points.

"I am so proud of our team as they executed the game plan," said Levens. "They played their hearts out, and to play three games in such a short time frame they did all they could."

The Cougars will put an end to the 2010-11 season with its fifth-consecutive road game Thursday at the SEC's University of Arkansas.

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