SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) Whitney Knight drained a career-high six 3-pointers and scored 26 points to lead No. 22 Florida Gulf Coast to its 20th straight win on Saturday, 75-59 over South Carolina-Upstate, which was also the 400th career win for coach Karl Smesko.
”We’re proud of the fact we’ve been able to be consistently good for a number of years, where we’re able to reach milestones like that,” Smesko said. ”We have bigger goals for the season.”
Kaneisha Atwater added 17 points and Katie Meador 12 for the Eagles (25-2, 12-0 Atlantic Sun), who have now won 21 straight league games.
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Brittany Clency had 16 points and Brittany Starling 15 for the Spartans (13-14, 5-7).
Knight, the league leader in 3s with 80, hit 4 of 5 in the first half – and all four of her free throws – for 16 points and the Eagles had a 41-31 lead. She finished 6 of 9 behind the arc. She also had eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
”Whit’s an exceptional talent, an exceptional player,” Smesko said. ”She made a lot of big shots for us…Her teammates found her when she was open and she knocked them down. It was an exceptional performance on a day when we needed one.”
Knight hit a trey and two free throws to give Florida Gulf Coast a 39-24 lead late in the first half, which ended at 41-31.
The Spartans never got closer than 10 in the second half and trailed by as many as 19.
Florida Gulf Coast won the outright Atlantic Sun regular season title, their fifth straight and six in seven years.
”We wanted to win the regular season championship, clinch it all to ourselves,” Smesko said. ”We have one week to get ready for the conference tournament. We’re trying to clean up some things, there are still some things we feel like we need to be better to be at our best for the conference tournament.”
Florida Gulf Coast: It took Karl Smesko 493 games to reach 400 wins, two less than it took Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. He is now 339-66 in his 11th season at the school. Smesko, Auriemma, Kim Mulkey of Baylor and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford own winning percentages above .800. … The Eagles are third in the NCAA, averaging 10 3-pointers a game. They hit 10 of 26.
South Carolina-Upstate: Sharmayne Edwards, who has six 20-point games and is the team’s leading scorer at 13.7, was held to eight on 4 of 15 shooting. … The Spartans forced 14 turnovers, one less than they had, but FGCU had a 23-11 advantage after those miscues.
Florida Gulf Coast goes to North Florida on Wednesday.