(AP) – An intriguing rematch is in store between Florida Gulf Coast and Oklahoma State on Saturday, as these teams follow up on last year’s first-round matchup that went to overtime.
The 10th-seeded Cowgirls take on a seventh-seeded Eagles team that will be seeking revenge for Oklahoma State’s 61-60 victory in the last NCAA Tournament.
Tiffany Bias’ layup with 41 seconds left in overtime lifted the then-No. 5 seed Cowgirls past Florida Gulf Coast on March 22. Oklahoma State went on to reach the Sweet 16.
This time, the Eagles (30-2) are the higher seed.
”We hope we can play well enough to advance,” said FGCU coach Karl Smesko, 343-66 at the school in 13 seasons for an .839 winning percentage. ”We look good right now. I feel good about this group.”
He should, as FGCU was a bad bounce or two from being the third undefeated Division I team, joining the Kentucky men’s team and the women from Princeton. FGCU’s only losses were by three points at Auburn and in double overtime to Ohio State in a holiday tournament in the Virgin Islands, and it was among nine teams to win 30 games this season. The Eagles carry a 25-game winning streak into the tournament.
Florida Gulf Coast is in its third NCAA Tournament in four years and second in a row, and Smesko’s team ranks among the national leaders with 871 3-point attempts (more than 27 per game).
Whitney Knight hit on 43 percent of her 200 attempts and was the Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year and MVP of the league tournament. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Oklahoma State (20-11) stumbled at the end of the season, going 2-3 in its last five while shooting 31.7 percent. The Cowgirls averaged 52.8 points in that span after scoring 66.5 in the previous 26.
They are led by 6-foot guard Brittney Martin, who averages 13.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. Liz Donohoe, Roshunda Johnson and LaShawn Jones also average double figures in points.
Jones went 5 for 5 for 10 points against FGCU last year, while Martin grabbed 15 rebounds. Donohoe and Johnson shot a combined 7 for 27 and totaled 20 points, though the duo went 5 of 15 from 3-point range.
Knight had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the matchup, while teammate Jenna Cobb scored 16 and went 4 of 7 from beyond the arc while adding nine boards. Stephanie Haas added 15 points.
”It’s two teams that are very familiar with each other,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. ”We’re both very familiar with how the other teams wants to play.”
The Eagles are allowing 52.9 points per game, ninth best in the country.