FORT MYERS, Fla. - Freshman forward Anthony Banks’ layup with 7.6 seconds remaining bolstered the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team to a 71-70 victory over Mercer at Alico Arena Sunday, snapping their six-game Atlantic Sun losing streak.
Banks (Lantana, Fla.) grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed 3-pointer by junior guard Reed Baker (Fort Myers, Fla.) and powered right back up for the bucket.
The Eagles (6-13, 3-7 A-Sun) then sprinted back on defense and forced Mercer’s Jeff Smith to miss his game-winning shot attempt.
Sunday’s victory was particularly sweet considering the Eagles lost by one point to Kennesaw State on Friday night.
“We weren’t going to let another team come in here and beat us by one point like that,” Banks said. “We just weren’t going to let that happen.”
FGCU led 69-65 with 51 seconds remaining after Banks made the second of two free throws. Mercer (9-10, 5-4 A-Sun) then cut the lead to two (69-67) when James Florence scored on a layup with 45 seconds remaining in regulation. Following a FGCU turnover, E.J. Kusnyer drilled a contested 3-pointer from the right wing giving the Bears a 70-69 advantage.
After a timeout by the Blue and Green, Baker would launch a three-pointer that rimmed out but Banks proved to be the thorn in the Bears paw, as he gobbled up the offensive rebound and scored what would be the game-winning bucket.
The Eagles had a 36-33 lead at the halftime break thanks to a go-ahead 3-pointer by Chambers and two free-throws by freshman Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla.).
FGCU led 54-43 with 12:21 to play before a 14-2 Mercer run would put them back on top, 57-56 with 7:19 remaining.
The teams went back and forth before Baker drilled a 3-pointer with 6:06 left on the clock, regaining a 61-57 lead.
The Eagles maintained the advantage until Kusnyer’s late 3-pointer, which would inevitably set up Banks’ game-winning layup.
Senior forward Kyle Marks (West Palm Beach, Fla.) led all scorers with 14 points, including a stretch in the second half when he scored on four straight Eagle possessions. Senior Derrick O’Neil (Moreno Valley, Calif.) chipped in with 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Banks finished with 12 points and five boards.
Daniel Emerson led the Bears with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Florence, the A-Sun’s leading scorer, was held to only 11 points, ten below his average.
The Eagles are back in action this Wednesday when they host Stetson in the second game of a double header with women’s basketball. Tip-off for the women’s game is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. at Alico Arena.
The tape-delayed broadcast of this afternoon's game can be heard on ESPN 770 following the conclusion of the NFC Championship game.