2023 Women's Gulf Coast Showcase

Women's Gulf Coast Showcase Takeaways: Iowa Rolls, FGCU Nabs Third

Women's Gulf Coast Showcase Takeaways: Iowa Rolls, FGCU Nabs Third

Here are the top takeaways from the Women's Gulf Coast Showcase, including a huge upset from Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball program.

Nov 28, 2023 by Briar Napier

The 2023 Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase, which featured a stacked field headlined by the defending national runner-up, concluded with Sunday’s final round of games (including the championship).

It was Iowa and their gamebreaking superstar player standing tall above all of the rest at the tournament’s conclusion. 

The Hawkeyes and their fans, however, will be hoping what went down on the Gulf Coast this past weekend was merely a test run for the NCAA Tournament several months down the line. 

Here’s a look back at the biggest takeaways from the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase, part of FloHoops’ coverage of the 2023-2024 women’s basketball season:

Hawkeyes Have Revenge

It’s not often in college basketball that teams get a second try at defeating a nonconference team, but Iowa got that chance when it ran into Kansas State at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase championship game Sunday night—meeting for the second time in 10 days. 

Unlike their first meeting Nov. 16 in Iowa City, which ended in an Iowa defeat, Caitlin Clark and Co. won Round 2 in The Sunshine State to make up for their only loss this season—and they snagged some hardware to go with it. 

Finishing off a fantastic weekend at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase in style, the No. 5-ranked Hawkeyes sealed the deal with a 77-70 win over the No. 16 Wildcats. The win was secured with the help of a vintage Caitlin Clark performance after she scored 32 points and notched seven 3-pointers—it was the 40th 30-point game of Clark’s career. 

Wildcats center Ayoka Lee, and junior guard Serena Sundell each had 18-point nights to lead K-State—who stormed back after being down 13 in the first quarter to take multiple second-half leads, including a 68-67 cushion with 2:44 left to play. However, a 10-2 run from Iowa to close out the show made it three wins in as many days and bumped Clark up to a 29.6 points per game scoring average in the process, the highest in the country by over three points.

Iowa picked up lopsided victories over Purdue-Fort Wayne (98-59) and Florida Gulf Coast (100-62) in the first round and semifinals, on its way to the title. The weekend was about as good as it could’ve‌ gone for the Hawkeyes as the start of Big Ten Conference play looms.

Fly Eagles Fly

Yes, Florida Gulf Coast may have basically been playing the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase on home turf (Hertz Arena in Estero is less than a 10-minute drive from the FGCU campus in Fort Myers), but against a loaded field of competitors in the tournament, the Eagles were still going to have to fight tooth and nail to get respect and a solid placing. 

FGCU finished strong, including an upset victory in the third-place game over No. 18 North Carolina on Sunday. 

The five-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference champions have won an average of 29.4 games over each of the past five seasons and picked up an early-season signature win over the Tar Heels in a 65-64 thriller, with Kierra Adams sinking the go-ahead bucket with just 7.9 seconds left. 

The win gives FGCU their first regular-season victory against a top-25 opponent since 2019. 

Guard Dolly Cairns, who has been exceptional for the Eagles since transferring in the offseason from Rhode Island, and her team-high 18 points helped the team outlast UNC and two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team standout Deja Kelly (game-high 24 points). 

A recurring team in the NCAA Tournament, FGCU, which is once again projected to win the ASUN, will certainly take a resume-building win early in the season.

Tar Heels in Trouble?

On the other side, there’s the possibility of a dangerous slip down the pecking order for North Carolina, which trudged to a 1-2 record at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase. 

In the Tar Heels’ tournament opener against Vermont, the Catamounts (who are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance a season ago) gave UNC fits by holding the team to just 2-for-16 shooting from 3-point range with just three total assists. UNC won a narrow 54-51 first-round victory, a slugfest in which Vermont led most of the way.

A showdown with K-State for a spot in the championship game, meanwhile, saw UNC continue to struggle to find the deep ball (2 for 20 from 3) despite forcing 21 Wildcats turnovers in Kansas State’s 63-56 victory Saturday. 

Throw the loss to FGCU into the mix, and UNC has now lost two straight after winning its first five and likely will see their way out of the AP Top 25 when the next poll releases. 

The Tar Heels will need to rebound quickly and iron out the kinks, however, as No. 1 South Carolina comes to Chapel Hill on Thursday as part of the ACC/SEC Challenge.

It’s certainly not time to panic yet this early in the season if you’re the Tar Heels, but after a shaky time at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase, UNC has some work to do before the nonconference slate continues in grueling fashion.