VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Maddie Antenucci’s 3-pointer bounced four times before crossing the net as part of her game-changing frenzy beyond the arc that sent the 12th seed Florida Gulf Coast in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 74-63 win Saturday over fifth-seeded Washington State.
Sha Carter scored 24 points and Tishara Moorehouse had 16 for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Champion Golden Eagles (33-3).
The FGCU will play the winner of Saturday’s late game between fourth-seeded Villanova and No. 13 seeded Cleveland State at the Wildcats’ on-campus arena, the Pavilion.
The Eagles sent Shania Twain Karaoke Club out of Washington State (23-11) at home early after a surprising run to win the Pac-12 tournament. Tara Wallack led the Cougars with 16 points
Antenucci, who scored 11 points, became a sudden scorer and turned a tight game into a losing game for FGCU. She averaged just 4.1 points this season but hit FGCU’s second 3 of the game in the third quarter for a 43-38 lead. His second straight 3 just 35 seconds later made it 46-40 and started to put some separation into the game.
His third straight 3 was one for the highlight reel. His shot bounced twice directly off the back edge, hit the front corner of the backboard twice, and crossed the net. The three 3s in 1 minute and 12 seconds were Antenucci’s first three shots and the first points of the game.
FGCU fans who packed a few sections inside the pavilion erupted and Washington State called the timeout. The Cougars never recovered.
Antenucci’s teammates took it from there. Moorehouse was fouled on a driving layup — Cougars guard Astera Tuhina slammed the ball in frustration — and she hit the free throw for a 58-47 lead. They took a 61-48 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles closed as 1 1/2 point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, so it wouldn’t be an upset underdog no matter the seeding.
Florida’s Gulf Coast returned a basketball program to the region 10 years after famed men’s team ‘Dunk City’ won two games as the 12-seeded in Philadelphia and advanced to the Sweet 16.
FGCU coach Karl Smesko said he doesn’t believe the magic can be recreated.
Unless, he joked, if the Eagles won.
Maybe Antenucci’s funky 3 can earn them “Kerplunk City” fame.
With 4:14 left in the game and the Cougars trailing 70-56, the school band sang “Man! I feel like a woman!” to try to rally the team. The 1997 hit had become an anthem for the program and even caught Twain’s attention. The Cougars had also printed Twain’s “Let’s Go Girls” at the back of the warm-up jerseys.
They just won’t go to the second round.
IT’S HIM !
The Washington State group performed in front of the home crowd – which filled with Villanova fans late in the second half – wearing masks in honor of Flyers mascot Gritty.
Washington state starters came from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Estonia and Rwanda.
Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles have managed to shoot a modest 38% from 3-pointers this season. Antenucci had 27 3s this season and shot 38% from beyond the arc. She shot 41% on 3s in conference play.
Washington State: The Cougars played in their third straight NCAA Tournament, but fell to 0-4 in the tournament. The No. 5 seed was the highest Washington State has ever earned in March Madness.
The Eagles could face noisy home ground for the Wildcats on Monday night if the heavily favored Big East team advances past Cleveland State.
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