FORT MYERS, FLA.- The #13 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers surpassed triple digits for the seventh time this year Wednesday night, taking a 105-84 decision over Hillsborough in Suncoast Credit Union Arena, their 14th straight win to improve to 18-2 on the year and 2-0 in Suncoast Conference action.
In front of a big midweek crowd, the Bucs came out fired up, racing out to a 9-0 and 17-4 lead before a Hillsborough timeout. The stoppage seemed to have broken their momentum though as the Hawks went on a 9-3 run out of the break to cut the Buc lead in half before a three from Nairimar Vargas-Reyes in the final minute of the first pushed FSW's lead back to nine at 24-15 at the end of one.
As they did in the first, the Bucs came out on fire in the second, quickly stretching their lead back to double digits as they went on an 11-0 run to begin the period and held Hillsborough without a field goal for the first 4:33 of the quarter to open up their largest lead of the half at 38-17. A pair of Shondell Vickers buckets on the inside looked like they would put the Hawks away before the break, but again Hillsborough closed the quarter strong, trimming the Buc lead all the way back down to just 11 at the half at 46-35.
FSW shot 46% in the half and held Hillsborough to just 33% shooting in the first 20 minutes. Vargas-Reyes led the Bucs with 11 first half points on 4 of 6 shooting while Vickers added 10 points and 5 boards for the home team. FSW dominated the glass, outrebounding the Hawks 38-12 in the half, but coughed the ball up 16 times which Hillborough turned into 14 points to keep themselves in the game.
Both teams came out ready to go in the second half as less than 1:30 in, the two had combined for 18 points as the Bucs continued to hold an 11 point advantage. That turned out to be the theme of the third quarter as the two teams traded blow for blow, putting up 67 total points in the 10 minute frame, with Hillsborough narrowly outscoring the Bucs to trim their lead to eight at 78-70 as they headed to the fourth.
Looking for the huge upset, the Hawks cut the Buc lead to five twice early in the fourth quarter. That's when FSW decided enough was enough and stepped on the gas to go on a 12-0 run led by Tina Stephens' six points to open their lead up to 96-79 with under four minutes to go. The Bucs hit the century mark with under a minute to go and picked up two more late buckets to finish off a big fourth quarter to run away with a 105-84 win to stay perfect in the early going of Suncoast Conference action.
FSW shot 49% overall from the field in the win while outrebounding the Hawks an incredible 72-24 on the night including 32 offensive rebounds for the purple and aqua.
It was a big night on the stat sheet for a number of Bucs including Za'Nautica Downs who poured in a career high 28. Vickers finished with her third double-double in the past four games with 18 points and 13 boards while Stephens filled up the box score with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, 4 steals, and 4 assists for the Bucs. Vargas-Reyes also turned in a solid effort with 18 points and 8 rebounds for FSW.
The Bucs win their 14th straight to improve to 18-2 overall and 2-0 in league action. Hillsborough falls to 10-9 and 0-1 in Suncoast play.
FSW returns home to take on Trinity College on Saturday at 2:00 for First Responders Day in Suncoast Credit Union Arena. All first responders will receive up to four free tickets at the box office in a show of the Bucs appreciation for their service to the community. It is also student engagement day where FSW students will have a chance to win $150 in bookstore gift cards as well as a Pepsi Yeti cooler with the purchase of Pepsi products at the concession stand.