FGCU Holds on to Defeat FIU; Stays Perfect at Home
|Florida Gulf Coast||43||33||76|
|Stats at a Glance||FIU||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.417 (25-60)||.556 (30-54)|
|3P FG Percentage||.345 (10-29)||.250 (4-16)|
|FT Percentage||.565 (13-23)||.522 (12-23)|
FIELER - 18
FIELER - 1
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind four players in double figures led by a season-high 18 points from juniors Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) and Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy), the FGCU men’s basketball team ran out to a double figure lead and held on to defeat in-state foe FIU, 76-73, on Thursday night at Alico Arena.
Playing its first game in nine days due to finals, the Eagles, who have received votes in back-to-back weeks in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll, improved to 7-4 on the season, including a perfect 6-0 at home. FIU – winners of three of its last four entering tonight – now has a 3-4 record.
“We played very well in the first half and we were solid in the second, but we gave them 11 extra possessions off of turnovers and offensive rebounds,” said head coach Andy Enfield. “When you miss free throws and turn the ball over like we did, we were just fortunate to win. We played well enough to win but we gave them a chance to steal the game at the end.”
Fieler was a big part of FGCU’s aggressive style on the offensive end that resulted in a season-high 51 points in the paint. The Eagles’ season-best 56 percent (30-54) night from the field helped the home team overcome a rough night from beyond the arc (4-16) and at the free throw line (12-23).
Coming off a career-high 18 points at Iowa State, Fieler equaled that total by going 8-of-11 from the field, including four dunks that raised his season total to 23, to go along with five rebounds. All four of the team’s makes from three-point land came from Varidel, as the Switzerland native scored 16 of his 18 points in the opening half, providing a huge spark off the bench in 20 minutes of action.
Nearly half of FIU’s shots came from beyond the arc, as the Panthers made 10-of-29 from three during their 42 percent (25-60) night from the floor. FIU owned a 24-17 edge in points off turnovers and took six more shots than the Eagles for the game. Freshman Jerome Fink provided several of those extra chances, getting seven of his game-high 10 rebounds on the offensive end to go along with 10 points for the double-double.
Entering the game with 44 dunks as a team, FGCU attacked the rim early and often, jumping out to a 12-3 lead behind three slams, including two from Fieler, who entered with a team-high 19 out of his 37 made field goals. All 12 points came in the paint, as the Eagles average 34.7 per contest.
The start off the game on the offensive end was the complete opposite for FIU, who entered averaging 7.5 three-pointers per game. Five of the first six made field goals for the Panthers came from beyond the arc to help the climb out of the early nine-point deficit to tie the game at 21-21 with exactly 9:00 left in the opening frame.
From that point on, Varidel, and the FGCU defense helped propel the Green and Blue to a 22-10 run to close the half. Varidel poured in 10 of his 16 first half points during the spurt, drilling three of his four trifectas, while FGCU limited FIU to just 2-of-12 from the field.
FGCU’s 43-31 lead at the half featured a 55 percent (18-33) shooting clip that was bolstered by 27 points in the paint, including the first 14 of the game. Varidel’s 16 points were one off his season-high, while the Eagles’ 43 points were a first half season-best.
With the Eagles still leading by double figures, 68-57, with 6:02 remaining, FIU made it a one-possession game, 68-66, with a 9-0 run that was finished off with a layup from Fink.
The two teams traded buckets and free throws over the next two minutes before the Panthers got consecutive stops and hit four straight free throws to climb within one, 74-73, with just 49 seconds left.
An FGCU turnover gave the ball back to FIU for a chance to take its first lead of the game, but Malik Smith’s pull-up jumper missed left and senior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) came down with the biggest of his team-high nine boards on the night.
After scoring 16 points in the first half, Varidel scored arguably his most important points, and first two of the second half, with six seconds remaining, as he hit both free throws to put FGCU up 76-73.
With no timeouts remaining, FIU pushed the ball up the court and got a good look at the game-tying three, but Tola Akomolafe’s shot caromed off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Sophomores Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) and Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) were FGCU’s other double-digit scorers with 14 points each. Comer added seven assists and had five rebounds in his season-high 34 minutes of work. Thompson entered the game third in the nation with 32 total steals, but took back the national lead by adding three more to his total, his eighth game this season with at least three thefts.
FIU was led in scoring by Gaby Belardo’s 17 points and seven assists, while Smith had 14 points.
FGCU will be back in action at Alico Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 18 when it hosts Southeastern. Gametime is slated for 7:05 p.m.
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