@FGCU_MBB Earns Gritty 79-75 Win At UNF To Remain Alone In First Place
Thursday, January 09, 2014 | by Jason MacBain (@JaBain)
Photo Courtesy: Linwood Ferguson / Captive Photons
Photo Courtesy: Linwood Ferguson / Captive Photons
FGCU (10-7, 4-0 ASUN)
North Florida (9-9, 3-2 ASUN)
1/9/2014 | Jacksonville, Fla. | UNF Arena | Attendance: 3181
North Florida383775
Stats at a GlanceFGCUUNF
FG Percentage.508 (31-61) .444 (24-54)
3P FG Percentage.385 (5-13) .360 (9-25)
FT Percentage.706 (12-17) .783 (18-23)
Offensive Rebounds1212
Defensive Rebounds2020
Total Rebounds3232
Bench Points2125
Statistical LeadersFGCUUNF
PointsCOMER - 15
BEECH - 14
ReboundsFIELER - 7
AssistsGRAF - 6
StealsCOMER - 1
GRAF - 1
BlocksMcKNIGHT - 2

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a battle of top teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference, the FGCU men’s basketball team (10-7, 4-0 A-Sun) overcame first-half foul trouble, a momentarily scary injury to Brett Comer and a hostile environment to remain in sole possession of first place with a gritty 79-75 win at the University of North Florida (9-9, 3-2 A-Sun) Thursday night.

A balanced offensive attack had four FGCU players reach double-figure points, led by a game-high 15 from Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS). Jamail Jones(Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) added 13 points, and Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) and Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) each had 12 as the Eagles started conference play 4-0 for the first time in program history.

Comer went up for a shot at the 11:24 mark of the second half and slipped near the free-throw line, going down immediately and grabbing his left knee. Comer was subbed out and went back to the locker room – not placing much weight on his left leg – and was replaced by Thompson who had four fouls of his own.

UNF held a four-point lead when Comer departed and extended to a five-point edge, 59-54, with 8:37 to play. However, that’s when FGCU commenced its comeback, started by a Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech) tip-in. That keyed a quick 6-0 spurt by the Eagles as Fieler and Thompson followed with buckets to put the Green and Blue back up one, 60-59.

The teams went back and forth for the next few minutes before Comer checked back in at the 6:49 mark. With Comer back on the court, FGCU went on a game-changing 11-1 run in a two-minute stretch to claim a 71-62 edge with 4:42 to play.

UNF, playing in front of a season-high 3,181 fans in UNF Arena, made a surge and got its deficit all the way back to only one on two separate occasions in the final 22 seconds. With the Eagles up, 77-75, with 5 seconds left, Comer fouled Jalen Nesbitt, putting the junior at the line with a chance to tie the game. However, he missed the first and then intentionally missed the second but was called for a lane violation. Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) was then fouled with 3 seconds remaining, and made both free throws to ice the game.

“When he (Comer) went down, I thought it was great the way the guys responded and then he was able to come back and play we continued that momentum,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “They’re (Ospreys) a very good offensive team, averaging 87 points per game at home, so we knew we were going to have to score as well and I’m pleased with the way the guys responded.”

FGCU played the final 9 minutes of the first half without the services of three starters: Thompson, Fieler and Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy) as each had two fouls. All three logged single-digit minutes in the first half, but FGCU still was able to maintain a high level of play and went into the halftime break tied at 38-38. The situation was further complicated when Thompson picked up two more quick fouls in the first four minutes of the second half before checking back in for Comer.

Graf continued his steady play of late, finishing with a season-high and game-best six assists against only one turnover, adding six points and three rebounds in 29 minutes of action. Fieler moved into sole possession of second place on the program’s all-time rebounding list as he grabbed a game-high-tying seven boards and now has 572, 17 shy of Sherwood Brown’s record of 589.

Comer, who started the year in 16th place on the program’s all-time scoring list, moved into the top-10 and now sits alone in 10th place with 824 career points. He also issued five assists and knocked down two 3-pointers, including a crucial one with 1:24 left to put the Eagles up eight and stop a mini 4-0 UNF run.

Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) came off the bench and tallied nine points, including a momentum-shifting 3-pointer in front of the FGCU bench as part of that 11-1 run. Hicks added six points on 3-4 from the floor, and McKnight added six points, five rebounds and two blocks before fouling out after 20 minutes of action.

For the game, FGCU shot 50.8 percent (31-61), while limiting the offensive-minded Ospreys to 44.4 percent (24-54), including just a 39-percent clip in the second half. UNF entered as the A-Sun’s leading offensive team in league action at 79 points per game, going up against FGCU’s league-leading defense. The two squads entered action as the top-two clubs in terms of rebound margin in A-Sun games, but ended up equal on the glass, 32-32.

One of the biggest differences in the game came in points off turnovers as FGCU committed 12 and UNF only 14 turnovers, but the Eagles efficiently turned those into 20 points while the Ospreys could only manage 11.

The win represented FGCU’s 50th A-Sun victory as the Eagles now own a league record of 50-56. However, since the start of A-Sun play in 2011-12, the Green and Blue has won half of those games, going 25-15 (8-10 in 2011-12, 13-5 in 2012-13 and 4-0 so far this year) in now their seventh season member of the conference.

Beau Beech led UNF with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Dallas Moore was the lone other UNF performer in double-figure points with 13 as all nine Ospreys who played scored at least three points.

FGCU remains in the city to face Jacksonville University on Saturday afternoon at approximately 3:15. The JU women play in the first game of what is a tripleheader at Veterans Memorial Arena at 1 p.m.

For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the men’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_MBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUMBB.

2013-14 men’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly, and only a limited amount remain. New this year are mini-plan packages for all games, with the exception of “Breakfast at the Beach,” and individual-game tickets are now on sale. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.