Stanford to be challenged by 31-win Florida Gulf Coast
Be forewarned, Stanford: The Florida Gulf Coast women's basketball team may be small, but it isn't your typical mid-major squad.
"They're really scrappy," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton told the Naples (Fla.) Daily News after the Eagles dispatched her Tigers on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. "They play hard. They've got some good athletes. They're very physical."
FGCU (31-4), which will face the No. 4 Cardinal in Monday's second round in Stanford, Calif., forced 16 Missouri turnovers while committing just nine, which translated to a 20-5 advantage in points as the 12th-seeded Eagles dominated the No. 5 Tigers in the 80-70 win.
But the Eagles, whose tallest player is 5-foot-11, didn't really consider it an upset.
"Well, it's an upset in terms of seeding, but we definitely came in with the mindset that this was a game we can win if we executed at a high level," FGCU's program-founding coach, Karl Smesko, said. "The last four times we've been here, we performed well. But at the beginning of each game, there was a sense of a little bit of nervousness or tension and we never got off to good starts because I thought there was a little bit of doubt -- 'Are we as good as the opponent?'
"So, we made a real emphasis this time to let our team know, 'Hey, you belong here. You're just as good. It's going to be whoever plays better today.'"
Senior guard China Dow, who came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 21 points, said her team fits with the top programs in the field.
"We wanted to show we belong here and put our name on the map, let people know we're not just a soft team, a mid-major team," Dow said. "We can compete with the best of the best. It was a big win for us."
Stanford (23-10), playing on its home court, Maples Pavilion, dominated on the boards to beat No. 13 Gonzaga 82-68.
The Cardinal had 17 offensive rebounds and outscored the Zags 38-20 on the inside.
"Stanford was too tough for us to stop on the glass today," Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said, according to the (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review.
"Unfortunately, that was a big key for us, and I thought, at times, we did enough offensively and executed well enough, but they had too many second-chance points and too many rebounds."
Stanford forwards Kaylee Johnson (6-foot-3) and Alanna Smith (6-4) will enjoy a big size advantage over the Eagles.
Florida Gulf Coast will counter with its outside shooters: The Eagles have made a nation's-best 414 3-pointers this season.
"We really had to work hard to be sitting in this situation so we're playing Monday night," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said, according to Palo Alto (Calif.) Online. "Florida Gulf Coast is a really unorthodox team and we're going to be very challenged. They put it right on their shirt, they shoot 3s.
"The thing I hope is (Golden State Warriors coach) Steve Kerr will take a couple of those shooters and have them play for the Warriors on Monday instead of against us."
Updated March 18, 2018