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FGCU wins first WNIT game; USF loses

Florida Gulf Coast 67, USF 65

The South Florida women’s basketball team’s season ended Friday in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) when Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) (22-8) defeated the Bulls 67-65 at Alico Arena. USF (16-16, 5-11) defeated three Atlantic Sun Conference teams this year. This was its only loss of the season to an Atlantic Sun team.

This is more than just the Bulls’ only loss to the Atlantic Sun, it is the only current win for an Atlantic Sun team in the postseason. The last two times an Atlantic Sun team won in the postseason were in 1998 and 1993. Florida International University (FIU) won both of those games.

In 1998, FIU defeated Marquette 59-45 in the NCAA Tournament. In 1993, FIU defeated Butler 79-75 in the WNIT.

This is FGCU’s first year as an NCAA Division 1 member, so this its first WNIT win. USF is 2-5 in the NIT, FGCU 1-0.

The game boiled down to the last minute of play, when FGCU senior forward Delia De La Torre hit a three-pointer with 47 seconds left in the game, making the score 64-62. USF never got a lead after the basket. De La Torre led the Eagles with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-9 from the free-throw line.

FGCU appeared to be in control until a little more than six minutes were left, when USF junior guard Shantia Grace capped a 26-17 run with a three-point play to tie the game at 49 apiece. The Bulls needed to go on the run because of two FGCU runs – a 21-10 run in the first half and a 6-0 run to start the second. Also, the Bull’s starting backcourt – junior guard Jazmine Sepulveda and Grace – combined for only 3-of-16 from the field in the first half.

Grace, USF’s leading scorer and second team All Big East, turned on the offense in the second half after scoring seven in the first. She finished the game shooting 11-of-31 for 34 points, including 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. She also grabbed seven rebounds.

USF will return all but two players, ChiChi Okpaleke and Daiane Packer, next year. One player who has played better toward the end of the season is sophomore forward Porche Grant, who had two double-doubles in the second half of the season.