23-10, 12-6 Conf

Sarah Hansen, Florida Gulf Coast clinch first NCAA tournament berth

MACON, Ga. -- Sarah Hansen scored 16 points, hitting four 3-pointers, as top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast routed Stetson 67-39 to win its first Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship on Saturday, capping an undefeated run through league play.

Courtney Chihil added 15 points to push her career total over 1,000 points for the Eagles, who clinched their first NCAA tournament berth in their first year of eligibility.

Coach Karl Smesko said the Eagles are ready to continue their postseason success.

"We get our first chance at the conference tournament and win it, and have an opportunity to represent a great university, southwest Florida and our conference in the NCAA tournament," Smesko said. "I'm telling you, this group can win games in the NCAA tournament."

The Eagles (29-2) followed an 18-0 regular-season conference slate with three tournament wins, joining the 1993 Florida International squad as the only teams to stay unbeaten through the regular season and tournament.

"It's a great feeling knowing everything we worked so hard for this year has paid off by winning this championship, but hopefully we're not done," said Hansen, a sophomore forward who was named the tournament MVP.

The 29 wins tied FIU's 1997-98 total for the most ever by an A-Sun team.

Victoria McGowan, the 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year, scored 17 to lead the second-seeded Hatters (23-10).

Florida Gulf Coast, which leads the nation in 3-pointers (10.8 per game) hit 11 of 28, compared to just 2 of 18 for Stetson.

"They're the kind of team you have to hang around," Stetson coach Lynn Bria said of the Eagles. "If you hang around, you have a chance. But they were ready and jumped on us early."

Bria said Florida Gulf Coast's defense is underrated. Stetson's 39 points was the low mark for the A-Sun tournament championship game since 1991. The Hatters made only 15 of 54 shots from the field (27.8 percent) and were held to 16 points in the second half.