STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Tara VanDerveer offered up the perfect game-plan to stymie Florida Gulf Coast’s fabulous 3-point shooters: Send them to the ailing, undermanned Golden State Warriors on Monday so Stanford’s defense might get a break.
“We’ll take ‘em!” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday by text message.
“He can’t have them,” Florida Gulf Coast quickly posted on Twitter in response.
Thing is, the defending NBA champions have an off day — so VanDerveer will have to prepare her fourth-seeded Cardinal to face the nation’s best deep threat in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Stanford (23-10) won its 19th straight first-round game and will try to advance to its 11th straight Sweet Sixteen facing a 12th-seeded Eagles team (31-4) on quite a roll. FGCU, without a single 6-footer on the roster, has won 11 straight games and 21 of 22 after its 80-70 upset of No. 5 seed Missouri in Saturday’s first game at Maples Pavilion.
“We’re not going to try and be taller than them,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said.
The Eagles shot just 7 for 17 on 3s in their first-round victory, but found their reliable rhythm of scoring on layups or driving and kicking out to the perimeter threats.
“Their three-point shooting is exceptional,” VanDerveer said. “It’s going to be a very tough challenge for us.”
VanDerveer and her team defeated FGCU as the Hall of Fame coach won her milestone 900th career game at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in November 2013. She has long since gone over 1,000.
“We are playing one of the most storied programs in women’s college basketball history tomorrow with an opportunity to make the Sweet 16,” Smesko said, noting the Eagles must move forward from the thrill of their first-round upset.
Cardinal freshman Kiana Williams dazzled in her NCAA debut Saturday, scoring 21 points with five 3-pointers while pushing the tempo on offense as the Cardinal earned a lopsided first-round win against Gonzaga. Florida Gulf Coast senior China Dow, who helped lead the way on both ends in the first round, understands the daunting task ahead for the Eagles to extend their special March run.
Stanford boasts an incredible 35-4 record in NCAA games at home. Florida Gulf Coast is in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in seven years with Division I postseason eligibility and won an NCAA game for the first time since beating Oklahoma State in 2015.
“The environment is going to be tough to play in. At the same time, we have fans down here who can be loud, too, whenever we score,” Dow said. “I think it’s the hype against playing against those fans. I have never been in an environment like Stanford, so if it works out, it will be fun.”
Editor’s note: Jenna Cobb, a graduate of Miami Trace High School, is an assistant coach for Florida Gulf Coast. She is the daughter of Glen and Jan Cobb of Fayette County.