Balanced Attack Helps FGCU Hold Off North Florida, 75-73
|Florida Gulf Coast||40||35||75|
|Stats at a Glance||UNF||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.431 (25-58)||.453 (29-64)|
|3P FG Percentage||.345 (10-29)||.400 (6-15)|
|FT Percentage||.867 (13-15)||.458 (11-24)|
FIELER - 14
Eagles win program record ninth straight home game
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a season-high five players in double figures, the FGCU men’s basketball team picked up its program Division I record ninth straight home win as it held on for a dramatic 75-73 Atlantic Sun victory over North Florida (UNF) Monday night at Alico Arena.
After leading by as many as 18 in the first half, the Eagles had to overcome a six-point deficit with 6:15 remaining by holding the Ospreys to just two field goals the rest of the way en route to improving to 11-6 overall and getting off to its best start in six years in the A-Sun at 3-1. The Green and Blue are 9-0 at home this season.
In a series that has yield 12 games decided by 10 points or less in the 14 meetings, FGCU snapped a seven-game losing streak against UNF with the win to even the all-time record between the two clubs at 7-7. The Ospreys are now 7-10 on the season and 2-2 in the A-Sun.
“This series always produces a good game and tonight our guys showed a lot of maturity to come back late in the game after being down 66-60,” said head coach Andy Enfield. “We got some key stops that stopped North Florida’s momentum. Give them credit, they have some very good players and anytime we play, the game can go either way and usually comes down to the end.”
Senior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) and junior Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) led the five players in double-digits with 14 points each. Brown did a majority of his damage in the first half with 13 of his 14 points and eight of his game-high nine rebounds, while Fieler had 10 of his 14 points in the second half while adding three blocks.
For the fifth time this season, junior Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) scored double figures off the bench with 13 points on 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from three. Redshirt sophomore Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy/Iowa State) had 12 points and six boards, while sophomore Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) had 11 points to extended his double figure streak to 11 contests.
FGCU’s ability to get into the paint and grab offensive rebounds proved to be the biggest difference in the game. The Eagles attacked the rim to the tune of a 42-26 edge in points in the paint and their 17 offensive rebounds resulted in 26 second chance points. Sophomore Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) contributed to a lot of the points in the paint, getting into the lane and distributing seven assists to go along with seven rebounds and four steals.
UNF also had a balanced offensive attack, led by senior Parker Smith’s 20 points. The A-Sun leader in threes per game, the Ospreys’ attempted half of their shots from long range, but were limited to 10-of-29 by the Eagles, who are the top defensive team against three-pointers in the A-Sun, according to percentage.
Owning an 8-7 lead a little less than four minutes in, FGCU went on a game-changing 19-2 run that saw the Eagles come away with points on eight of 11 possessions, including the first six. Varidel accounted for eight points during the scoring spurt, highlighted by an old-fashioned three-point play to cap things and make it 27-9 with 10:54 on the clock.
FGCU held on to its double figure lead for all but 26 seconds the rest of the period when UNF cut it to a 38-29 score with 46 seconds remaining, but Brown’s second put-back in the final two minutes made it 40-29 in favor of the Green and Blue at the half.
Brown’s offensive rebound and put-back put his first half totals at 13 points and eight rebounds at the break, while it marked the eighth time in nine homes that FGCU has been ahead at the half. Behind Brown, the Eagles turned 10 first half offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points.
FGCU’s lead was whittled down to one possession, 43-30, less than four minutes into the second half and UNF took its first lead, 54-53, at the 10:44 mark – its first lead since the third minute of the contest.
The lead changed hands five times in the next three minutes until the Osprey’s used an 8-2 run to build the aforementioned 66-60 lead with 6:16 left.
For the game, the Eagles shot 45 percent (29-64) from the field, committed a season-low eight turnovers and held a slim 41-39 edge on the glass.
FGCU will continue its busy start to the A-Sun season on Thursday when it begins its second road trip of conference play at USC Upstate on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Spartans (8-7) are the A-Sun’s only remaining unbeaten team in league play at 2-0.
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