- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gulf Coast struggled from 3-point range and missed a chance to extend its 26-game winning streak.

FGCU made just 7 of 25 shots from beyond the arc and the Eagles lost for the first time since November and Florida State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 65-47 win on Monday.

“To beat a team as good as Florida State on their home court, you’re going to have to shoot the 3 at a high percentage,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said.

“You’re going to have to finish your layups at a high percentage. When we got those types of shots, it wasn’t our day to make it. Florida State is just too good to leave that many points out on the floor.”

Taylor Gradinjan scored 12 points for FGCU (31-3), but the Eagles couldn’t generate nearly enough offense to keep up with FSU (31-4).

FGCU shot just 17 of 55 from the floor. Whitney Knight scored nine points and Kaneisha Atwater added eight points, but both struggled to make jumpers. Atwater made 3 of 14 shots, while Knight made 3 of 12 (including 2 of 9 from beyond the arc).

The Eagles hadn’t lost since Nov. 30 when they fell in double overtime to Ohio State in the U.S. Virgin Island Paradise Jam.

FGCU then went on a dominating stretch, winning 21 of 26 games by double figures.

But FGCU started off slowly on Monday.

FSU jumped out to a 17-2 lead on Shakayla Thomas’ jumper 4 minutes, 12 seconds into the game. Thomas led FSU with 12 points.

“They blitzed us pretty good at the beginning,” Smesko said. “They knocked down a lot of shots. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole.”

FGCU cut into the deficit a few times, but FSU maintained at least a six-point lead and had a double-digit edge for most of the second half.

The Eagles trailed just 36-28 at the half, but FGCU couldn’t connect from beyond the arc in the second half. FGCU made just 2 of 15 3-pointers and fell behind by as many as 24 points with 5:44 left.

FSU outrebounded FGCU 46-23. Adut Bulgak had nine points and 13 rebounds for the Seminoles.

FGCU made 11 3-pointers in a first-round win over Oklahoma State, but FSU’s defense was stingy.

“They pressured defensively,” Knight said. “They tried to knock you off balance.”

FGCU won its first NCAA Tournament game on Saturday and was looking to build on what was already one of the best seasons in school history.

Despite falling short against FSU, the Eagles feel they have a solid foundation for the future. FGCU loses Jenna Cobb, who had eight points on Monday, but the Eagles have four starters returning for next season.

“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Smesko said. “There’s nothing but disappointment today but definitely when we look back at the season we have a lot to be proud of.”

GOING FORWARD:

Both FCGU and Florida State appear to be loaded again for next season.

Florida Gulf Coast loses just one starter, guard Jenna Cobb, off this season’s team while Florida State also returns four starters and nine of its top 10 players for next season. Senior guard Maegan Conwright is the lone departing Seminoles starter.

TIDBITS:

Florida Gulf Coast played its first game as a Division I team against Florida State on Nov. 16, 2008. The Seminoles won 81-62. Florida Gulf Coast defeated its opponents by an average of 19.4 points while Florida State outscored opponents by 19.5 points a game.

UP NEXT:

Florida State advances to the Sweet 16 at Greensboro, N.C. to face Arizona State.

Florida Gulf Coast’s season ends.

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