Women’s Basketball Comes To New Port Richey For The Sun Coast Challenge

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By Dylan Spaulding

The 2nd annual Sun Coast Challenge is on the horizon, featuring a three game slate from Dec. 19th– 21st at New Port Richey’s Pasco-Hernando State College Gymnasium.

The upcoming event will feature three of NCAA’s promising women’s D1 teams coming into town, with the Ball State Cardinals, Pitt Panthers and Georgia Bulldogs all participating in this year’s showcase.

Each team is coming into these set of games looking to close out their non-conference schedule with a bang and what better of a place to do it than in Florida,

PREVIEW

Ball State Cardinals

The Ball State Cardinals come into this week with a record of 7-2 with wins coming over Northern Iowa, Saint Louis and Western Kentucky most recently.

Coached by 12th year head man, Brady Sallee, Ball State has seen top competition this season in the form of Notre Dame and UConn, both of which are ranked in the Top 25.

The team is led by leading scorer, junior Madelyn Bischoff, averaging over 12 points a game so far for the team this season.

Ball State, currently listed as a tournament team heading out of conference can do some damage this week, with a big test coming in regards to their game against Georgia in the Sun Coast Challenge finale.

Don’t count out the Cards as they head into two big matchups against top big conference competition.

Georgia Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs out of the SEC come into the event with a 7-3 record on the season, featuring a 2-0 record in neutral site competition, coming in the form of wins at the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship.

The Dawgs are coached by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson who is no stranger to the state of Florida with her success at UCF, leading the Knights to a NCAA tournament birth during her time at the program.

Now in her homecoming, she looks to take a solid Georgia team into battle with the Dawgs looking  to close out the non-con on a positive note.

The team is led by their leading scorer, fifth year F Javyn Nicholson, who is averaging 15.4 PPG on the season with 9 rebounds per game, also leading the team.

With three double digit point scorers on the teams roster, Georgia will be a tough test heading into two intriguing non-conference neutral site game.

Pitt Panthers

The third and final team in this season’s Sun Coast Challenge, the Pitt Panthers come into this week with a record of 5-5, but have already got their glimpse of Florida, finishing 1-1 in the Daytona Beach Invitational back in November.

The team, who are coached by first year man at Pitt Tory Verdi, look to get back into the win column prior to beginning conference play on New Year’s Eve, with the team’s two matchups this week.

While Pitt’s record may not have the favorable number, this a team that can play and is in one of the top conferences in the NCAA with ACC.

The team is led by Liatu King, averaging 11.4 PPG so far on the year with Pitt looking to make a solid run through the competition in New Port Richey.

Event Notes (From Press Release)

  • SEC is the only conference to be featured twice in the event; Mississippi State previously competed in 2022.
  • Ball State and Georgia will meet for the first time in program history during the Sun Coast Challenge.
  • Pittsburgh has not played Georgia since 1981 in the Women’s NIT, the only matchup in the all-time series. Georgia is 1-0 in the series all-time.
  • Pittsburgh has played Ball State in each of the past two seasons in Home & Home series; they are 4-1 in all-time series.
  • Pittsburgh will double-up this fall in Fla., also traveling to Daytona for the Daytona Beach Invitational in mid-November.
  • This will be Georgia’s third consecutive Neutral Site Early Season Tournament in Fla.; the previous two were the Daytona Beach Invitational.
  • This will be Ball State’s first Neutral Site Early Season Tournament in Fla. since the 2018-19 season at the Gulf Coast Showcase.
  • Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, a former UCF Head Coach, will find herself back in the Sunshine State for the third time since departing for Georgia, finishing 2-1 last season in her visits after leading UCF to high success, including their first tournament bid in her six seasons.
  • Tony Verdi, Pittsburgh’s Head Coach, will renew his MAC ties through the Sun Coast Challenge, squaring off against Ball State and Brad Salle. Verdi finished his four-year tenure with Eastern Michigan, meeting eight times versus Salle’s Ball State Cardinals.
  • The event will feature three Fla.-native players, all of whom are members of the Georgia Bulldogs, including So. Forward Amiya Evans, who is from the Tampa Bay Area.

Event Information

WHERE: New Port Richey, Fla. At Pasco-Hernando State College

WHEN: Dec. 19th-21st at 12pm EST for all three games

WATCH: Games Will Be Streamed On BallerTV, with team’s individually broadcasting on their radio stations

Sun Coast Challenge

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