Ulel's Heroics Help FGCU Pick Up Tough Win Over Houston

Ulel's Heroics Help FGCU Pick Up Tough Win Over Houston

 -Nasrin Ulel scored five points over the final 1:13, including a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left that proved to be the difference, as the FGCU women's basketball team (5-2) survived a 28-point fourth-quarter surge from Houston (3-5) to produce a 76-71 win at Alico Arena on Wednesday. It is the team's third consecutive win.

"Basically, we just hung on at the end," FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. "I thought we got off to a really good start, got the lead early. In the second half, I thought it looked like we were running out of gas with a lot of front rim misses. All of a sudden, our defense, that I thought was really good in the first half, making them take tough shots, keeping them out of the paint, wasn't getting back as early. We left some gaps, and they were aggressively attacking the paint and getting a lot of layups on us.

"It was a tough game. We turned the ball over too much. A lot of them led to easy baskets. So, there's a lot that we can learn from that. We feel good that we beat a good team."

FGCU, which had a short turnaround after just returning from Hawaii late Monday, got a career-high 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting off the bench from Chandler Ryan, along with 17 points from Ulel. Lisa Zderadcka chipped in 15 points, while Keri Jewett-Giles had 14. Those four players combined for all but 11 of the Green and Blue's point total.

The Eagles led 61-43 entering the final quarter, but Houston scored 19 of the first 21 points to trim its deficit to just one with 2:39 left. The two teams then traded free throws until Jewett-Giles found a cutting Ulel for a layup and a three-point lead. Houston responded with another pair of free throws, but Ryan found Ulel for a 3-pointer and a four-point lead with 37 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Houston was called for an illegal screen, which spurred a technical foul on head coach Ronald Hughey. Ryan then buried four straight free throws, including the two technical shots, to push the lead to eight and essentially seal the game.

Ryan's previous career-high was the 13 she scored against Florida Memorial on Nov. 12, and it was her fourth double-digit performance of the season. She has scored just 26 points fewer this year (62) than all of last season (88) through only seven games.

Ulel, meanwhile, has five straight games in double figures - averaging 17.2 PPG over that stretch. Zderadicka's tally was one shy of her season-high, while Jewett-Giles produced her sixth straight game with at least 14 points while adding a game-high five assists and a team-high two steals.

Destiny Washington-Mabon, who earned her first start of the season, produced four points, seven rebounds, three assists and a team-high two blocks. Tytionia Adderly led the team in rebounds with eight, while adding five points, two assists and a steal before fouling out late.

The Green and Blue opened the game on a 12-0 run, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Ulel and Adderly. A three-point play from Zderadicka pushed the margin to 17 with 5:38 left in the half before back-to-back 3-pointers from Ryan helped FGCU take a 19-point lead into the break. In the third, the lead hovered between 11 and 19 before Houston's fourth-quarter surge.