In the wake of Monday night’s 67-47 loss to Atlantic Sun Conference leader Florida Gulf Coast at Allen Arena, Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett thinks his team is making a turnaround.
“We are definitely getting better,” Bennett said. “In the four home games with Evansville, South Alabama, Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast our level of play has risen. There is a still room for a lot of improvement as the season goes on.
“We are versatile. We can go big or go small. We are figuring it out as coaches what we can do and what we can’t do. It has been a real team effort.”
Despite the 20-point deficit at the end of the game, the Lady Bisons gave Florida Gulf Coast a strong challenge, especially in the first half.
“They are the best team in the league and we came out and battled them toe-to-toe,” Bennett said. “We played hard. We kept the pressure on them.
“We wanted to push the ball. They deny the ball so hard we wanted to try to make passes early before they got their defense set so we could move the basketball. We didn’t adjust quite as well to all of the switching they were doing. They kind of did that more against us than they do against most teams.”
The biggest difference in the game as turnovers as the Lady Bisons committed 20. They came into game averaging 14.4, the 20th lowest mark in NCAA Division I. In Saturday’s 79-60 win over Stetson the Lady Bisons set a program low for turnovers with six.
“We haven’t been at the 20-level in a long, long time,” Bennett said. “Florida Gulf Coast switched hard and put a lot of pressure on the ball. But we are a little careless sometimes. We could have controlled a lot of those that we made.”
In the first half Florida Gulf Coast jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Lady Bisons answered with seven straight points to tie the game at 13:19 on a jumper by junior forward Valerie Bronson.
The Lady Bisons stayed close in the first half, but could not get the lead. With 3:53 left before intermission sophomore Chelsea Burroughs sank a 3-pointer from the corner.
At the end of the first half Florida Gulf Coast led 26-21.
In the second half junior guard Jenna Bartsokas connected on a jumper to trim the Florida Gulf Coast lead to 26-23.
Florida Gulf Coast then went on an 11-0 scoring run to take a 37-23 lead.
Lady Bisons sophomore forward Leah McAlister found the range on a 3-pointer at 14:50 of the second half to trim the Florida Gulf Coast lead to 37-30. It was the seventh straight point for McAlister.
It was also the closest the Lady Bisons would get to Florida Gulf Coast.
Florida Gulf Coast outscored the Lady Bisons 9-2 to take a 46-32 lead with 12:35 left on a 3-point shot by senior forward Chelsea Lyles.
The biggest lead for Florida Gulf Coast was 19 points, 56-37, on a 3-pointer by junior guard Shannon Murphy with 8:48 in the game.
The Lady Bisons refused to give up the fight, cutting Florida Gulf Coast lead to 16 points, 58-42, on a jumper in the paint by freshman center Chelsea McMeans with 5:15 on the clock.
With 2:40 remaining sophomore center Brittany Duerk scored on a layup and was fouled. She hit her free throw to cut the lead to 16 at 61-45.
Bartsokas was the only Lady Bisons player to finish in double figures with 12 points. Duerk led the Lady Bisons in rebounding with a game-high 10. McAlister finished with nine rebounds, a career high.
“Brittany Duerk and Leah McAlister really battled hard,” Bennett said. “Chelsea McMeans also had another good rebounding game with six.”
Murphy finished with a game-high 15 points. Guard Eglah Griffin added 12. Forward Adrianne McNally tossed in 10. McNally led Florida Gulf Coast in rebounding with seven.
The Lady Bisons are 3-11 overall, 1-3 in the conference. Florida Gulf Coast remains unbeaten in the conference with a 4-0 record, 9-3 overall.
Saturday afternoon at 4 the Lady Bisons will play USC Upstate at Allen Arena as part of a doubleheader with the men’s teams.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations