Bench Ignites Rally, but FGCU Falls at Loyola Maryland, 77-74
|Florida Gulf Coast||24||50||74|
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||LOY|
|FG Percentage||.424 (25-59)||.463 (25-54)|
|3P FG Percentage||.529 (9-17)||.375 (6-16)|
|FT Percentage||.833 (15-18)||.724 (21-29)|
VARIDEL - 17
Winbush - 6
BALTIMORE, Md. – After making 4-of-5 from long range over the first 39 minutes of the game, sophomore Christophe Varidel’s (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) game-tying three-point attempt with six seconds left was blocked, putting an end to furious second half comeback by FGCU as it fell short at Loyola University Maryland on Sunday, 77-74, at Reitz Arena.
Varidel and freshman Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points each, but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles dropped their fourth in a row to slip to 2-5 on the season. FGCU, who was playing its fifth road game, has lost five games by a combined 21 points, including three by three points or less.
Loyola Maryland, who hadn’t played in a week compared to the Green and Blue playing their third road game in six days, improves to 4-1 with its fourth straight win.
Varidel and Thompson’s big day ignited the FGCU bench that produced 44 points, including 33 of the team’s 50 in the second half. It marked the fourth time this season that the Eagles’ leading scorer has come off the bench, as Varidel, Thompson and sophomore Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) supplied double figures off the pine.
Thompson scored 15 of his season-high 17 in the second half, including nine straight that cut the Loyola lead from 13 to four with 14 minutes left. Varidel’s 17 came on 4-of-6 from three and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line. Varidel is 16-of-31 from deep this season.
Both teams entered the day having out-rebounded all of their opponents, and it was FGCU that finished the fast paced 40 minutes with a 36-33 edge on the glass. Making his first start since 2009-10, redshirt junior Eddie Murray (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) set career-highs with 11 points and a game-high eight boards. Eight of the 10 players that saw time for the Eagles grabbed an offensive rebound to help the Green and Blue finish with 17 offensive caroms for the second straight game.
As good as Murray was on offense, he was even more crucial on the other end of the court, picking up seven defensive rebounds against a very deep and talented Loyola frontcourt. MAAC preseason All-Conference selections Erik Etherly and Shane Walker combined for 25 points and nine rebounds, which is five points and eight rebounds below their season average. Etherly led Loyola-Maryland with 15 points.
FGCU was faced with a double figure deficit early in the second half for the fourth time this season after falling behind 37-24 at the half thanks to the Greyhounds closing the opening 20 minutes on a 22-8 run. After failing to gain any ground in the first five minutes of the final frame, the Eagles turned to Thompson. The lengthy 6-foot-3 freshman responded with a 9-0 run of his own that took just 1:09 off the clock and pulled the Eagles to within 44-40 at 14:12 mark.
The Greyhounds extended their lead back to double figures as late as the 6:32 mark in the half, 60-49, but couldn’t put the Eagles away due to foul shooting. Having already committed enough fouls to be in the double bonus, FGCU climbed back into the game by scoring on five of seven possessions inside of two minutes leading up to Varidel’s last shot. On the flipside, Loyola was sent to the free throw line to shoot two seven times, but was only able to knock down both shots twice.
Fieler scored seven straight points on a three-pointer sandwiched between a pair of dunks to make it a 74-71 score with 20 seconds left. Loyola made just 1-of-2 at the line on the other end before Thompson knocked down his third three of the half with 12 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game, 75-74.
A quick FGCU foul put Anthony Winbush at the line where he knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to push it back to a full one-possession game, 77-74.
Thompson took the in-bound pass and pushed the ball up the left side of the court where he handed off to Varidel outside the three-point line. Varidel, who got the ball beyond the arc, made a quick shot fake took one dribble for the pull-up three that was turned away.
FGCU scored a season-high 50 points in the second half on 56 percent shooting (17-30), including 7-of-11 from three. For the game, the Eagles finished with a 42 percent clip (25-59), while Loyola came in at 46 percent (25-54).
Freshman Dante Holmes (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances HS/Oldsmar Christian) made his first career start in front of family and friends, as the Baltimore native had seven points. Freshman point guard Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) had six points and a team-high five assists.
After playing seven games in 17 days, including five on the road, to open the season, FGCU will have a much-needed five days off before returning to the friendly confines of Alico Arena on Saturday, Dec. 3, for its Atlantic Sun opener against ETSU. Gametime in Southwest Florida is set for 5:15 p.m. and is the first part of a doubleheader with the women’s program.
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