Junior Sasha Sims scored 20 points including the 1000th point of her career, but visiting Florida Gulf Coast defeated Stetson 72-55 Saturday afternoon in an Atlantic Sun Conference game at the Edmunds Center.
The loss snapped Stetson's 16-game home court winning streak, and the Hatters (19-8, 12-4 A-Sun) suffered just their first home loss of the year. The Eagles (23-5, 16-0) remained undefeated in A-Sun play.
Victoria McGowan added 10 points, five rebounds, and three steals for Stetson.
Unlike when the same teams met in Fort Myers last month and rebounding proved to be the difference in the game, the key statistic in Saturday's match-up was inside points. The Eagles generated several lay-up opportunites throughout the contest and finished with a 40-22 advantage in points in the paint.
"I've talked all year about how heavily we rely on points in the paint, and so do they," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said, referring to FGCU. "I don't deny that they shoot the three well, but at the end of the day they want a lay-up.
"I thought we did a very good job rebounding, I thought our effort was good, but I didn't think our execution was very good, and that is my job and it is my fault," Bria added. "It is correctable, but I think the points in the paint was the key stat. (FGCU) executed very well."
Sims was 7-for-11 from the floor while adding five rebounds, a block and two steals to her 20-point performance. Her 1000th point came on a lay-up midway through the second half, bringing a roar from the 1345 in attendance.
"That might be the best game I ever saw Sasha play on both ends of the floor," Bria said. "She gave everything she had, she played great and she just did everything for us both offensively and defensively. She executed on a real high level and I was really proud of her."
The Eagles jumped out to an early 12-3 lead, but the Hatters answered back on a 17-3 run to take a 20-16 lead at the 7:53 mark. FGCU regained the lead with a 12-0 run of its own, but Jama Sharp's three-pointer with 2:41 to go in the first half tied the score at 28.
"I thought Jama was great as well, I really liked her tempo," Bria said. "(Sharp and Sims) were our two most aggressive players."
The Eagles led by five at halftime and outscored Stetson 37-25 in the second half. Sarah Hansen led FGCU with 27 points.
"I know we have to beat Kennesaw on Thursday, that's our most important game now," Bria said when asked if she was hoping for a third meeting with FGCU in the postseason. "We have to play well on Thursday and we have to finish up well at home. The next two games are real important to us and hopefully we can build some momentum going into the conference tournament."
Stetson's quest for three-straight 20-win seasons must wait until Thursday night when the Hatters host Kennesaw State at 5 p.m.
Notes: Sims became the 20th player in school history to score 1000 career points ... The Hatters are 28-2 in their last 30 home games, with both losses coming at the hands of FGCU ... The Hatters' 16-game win streak ranked as the seventh-longest active home court win streak in the nation (as of Saturday).