FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team earned its first win over a Big East opponent, defeating DePaul 64-61 in front of 3,125 fans at Alico Arena. With the win, FGCU extends its winning streak to four games, their longest winning streak since becoming a member of Division I.
Back-to-back A-Sun Player of the Week Reggie Chambers (Miramar, Fla.) had a career day for the Eagles (4-6). Chambers tied his career high in points (20), rebounds (7), and also set a career high with five steals. Chambers also added a game high five assists.
Head coach Dave Balza called the win the “best game in the program’s history.”
“The crowd energized our guys,” Balza said. “This is a great group of guys who always work very hard (and) tonight’s win is a reflection of that hard work.”
FGCU took a 30-25 lead into the halftime break after holding the Blue Demons (7-4) to just 28-percent shooting from the field.
The Eagles led by as many as 13 points in the second half before DePaul began to chip away at the lead.
The Blue Demons cut the lead to one point with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Chambers then made what was described by Balza as “the play of the game” when he stole an errant pass and drove it the other way for a layup with 1:18 remaining that gave FGCU a three point lead (62-59).
DePaul again cut the lead to one (62-61) with 59 seconds on the clock. This time it was senior Derrick O’Neil (Moreno Valley, Calif.) who made a key layup to put the Eagles back up three with under 30 seconds to play (64-61).
DePaul had one 3-point opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but the Eagles defended the play well to win by a final score of 64-61.
“We were hungry all week to get a big win,” Chambers said. “We expected to win this game. This is one of the biggest wins in program history.”
Junior guard Reed Baker (Naples, Fla.) scored 12 points for FGCU while freshman forward Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla.) scored 11 points and grabbed a career high 10 rebounds. O’Neil finished with nine points and senior forward Kyle Marks (West Palm Beach, Fla.) added six points on 3-for-3 shooting.
The win was also memorable for nine year old PJ Chester, who was granted his wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. PJ’s wish to become a basketball star came true as he served as the honorary team captain for tonight’s game. The Eagles presented PJ with an authentic FGCU home uniform, and his teammates completed the night with an historic win.
The Eagles are back in action on the road Tuesday, December 29 in DeLand, Fla. when they take on Stetson in an Atlantic Sun Conference matchup at 8:00 p.m. in the Edmunds Center.
FGCU returns to Alico Arena January 8 at 7:05 p.m. when they host the Ospreys of North Florida.