ORLANDO, Fla. — Kierstan Bells continued her incredible start to the season as the junior took 31 high game points to lead the FGCU women’s basketball team (4-0) to an 88-57 win over Manhattan (2-1). ) in the opening game of the MAAC/ASUN Challenge at HP Fieldhouse at ESPN’s Large World Sports Complex on Friday.
The Eagles have won 26 straight games of the season since November 29 last year and will be back on Saturday at 12pm to Fairfield.
“We played a very good first half,” FGCU’s head coach Karl Smesko speak. “We needed to do better work across the board but we shared the ball. Our players were down and ready, which led to a good percentage.”
Bell (Alliance, Ohio / Canton McKinley HS / Ohio State) finished 12 to 21 from the field, including a performance of 5 to 11 from long distance. She added nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. The original Buckeye State player scored 20 plus points in each game in the first four games of the season, including games with 30 plus points. In total, she scored a total of 111 points in that period.
Not only Bell led the attack like Kendall Spray made 6/8 from long distance for 19 points. The national team leading in goals scored by 3 points had made 3 appearances as a substitute before the first media timeout and now has 20 goals in 4 matches. On Friday, she also contributed four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Tishara Morehouse (Milwaukee, Wis./Rufus King/Western Nebraska) double in scoring with 11 of 4 against 8 shots from the bench.
As a team, FGCU finished 18 counts 40 (.450) from long distance in the team’s third game with 14 or more games.
Green and Blue took a 27-23 lead early in the second half before scoring 10 in a row and 21 of the game’s next 25 to take control. Spray (Mt. Juliet, Tenn./Wilson Central / Clemson / UT Martin) started the run with a free throw and Bell added a three-point play while Kerstie Phills (Charlotte, NC / Charlotte Christian / Wagner) and Aaliyah Stanley (Boynton Beach, Fla. Academy/Oxbridge/Eastern Michigan) create 3 pointers for the original 10 points.
Whereby, Andrea Cecil (Port of Oak, Ohio / Port of Oak / BGSU) got their first point of the season with a pair of free throws before Spray (2) and Bell (1) combined to create 3 consecutive 3-pointers as FGCU led 48-27 with half time left 2: 23. Karli Seay (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor/LSU), who had their first game in the Greens and Blues, closed the half with a setback as the Eagles scored 50 points in the first 20 minutes.
FGCU opened the second half offensively, finishing the second half just 5 for 16 from the field in the third half. However, Bell won 4 to 9 with 9 points and 4 rebounds to help the Eagles finish the fourth quarter 7 to maintain their 19-point lead.
If the lead isn’t comfortable enough, the Eagles won 17 of the first 23 in the final quarter, taking contributions from the bench Maddie Antenucci (Cincinnati, Ohio / Indian Hill) (5) and Kierra Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga./Brookwood) (2) late. A 3 from Bell with a 6:05 left helped her score 30 as she sat for the final five minutes with the game in hand.
FGCU is currently winning MAAC 6-1 all-time with three wins in a row.
The Eagles continued their strong 3-point defense, holding Manhattan to a 2 to 12 finish from 3-point range. They entered the game when holding a draw with only 11.1% from a long distance.
Bell’s offensive performance was the seventh 30-plus performance of her career, including the 15th with 25 plus and the 25th with 20 plus.
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Head Coach FGCU Karl Smesko maintains a 584-125 (0.823) overall record of his career, which is the third-highest win rate among active Division I coaches, behind only UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Kim Mulkey’s Baylor. He also led the Eagles to a 217-17 (.927) record in the ASUN regular game and a 27-2 (.931) record in the ASUN league game. Over the past 10 seasons, he has led FGCU to a record 153-5 (.968) in the conference game with six seasons unbeaten. 11-time ASUN Coach of the Year Award-winning coach led the show to 11 consecutive 25-time seasons and 20-time winning campaign, including more than 30 wins in four of seven past year. On top of that, the Eagles are 523-98 (.842) all-time since Smesko started the program in the 2002-03 season, and Green and Blue’s .821 all-time win rate is the highest in the NCAA Division I history women’s basketball.
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), organizations from selected by FGCU Athletics. For more information, including how to contribute, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and use the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
FGCU teams have combined to win an astounding 85 league and regular league championships in just over 13 seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just nine seasons of post-season DI qualifying , the Eagles have had a total of 42 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. Eight FGCU programs have earned the top 25 national rankings in their respective sports – including women’s basketball (21st, 2020-21), beach volleyball (20th, 2021) and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) are three of the most recent. In 2016-17, Green and Blue finished in the series’ best sixth place in the DI-AAA Learfield Director’s Cup and the top 100 was screened nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS organizations. In 2018-19, the Eagles had one ASUN and seven of Florida’s best teams winning the NCAA’s Recognition Award for Academic Progress Rate in their sport. FGCU also achieved a record GPA of 3.50 in the classroom during the fall 2020 semester and has outperformed the overall undergraduate population for 23 consecutive semesters. Each of the Fall 2019, Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 semesters saw another major milestone achieved as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0 or higher cluster GPA. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – recognized as one of two runners-up for the first ever NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.
https://fgcuathletics.com/news/2021/11/19/bell-drops-31-leads-womens-basketball-past-manhattan-88-51.aspx Bell Drops 31, Women’s Basketball Lead Through Manhattan 88-57