Sophomore helps Eagles sink program Division 1 record 14 threes
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Led by a career-high 26 points from sophomore Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) and a Division I school record 14 three-pointers as a team, Florida Gulf Coast closed its 2010-11 campaign with a 81-65 Atlantic Sun win over USC Upstate on Monday night at the Hodge Center.
On the strength of its 14-of-21 night from three-point land, FGCU picks up its fourth win in the last five games to close out the season. The Eagles conclude the year with a 10-20 overall record and a 7-13 mark in conference play to finish in seventh place. The win also completed a season sweep of Upstate, the third team the Eagles have swept this year.
Brown’s game-high 26 points came on the heels of back-to-back 18-point outings, which at the time were career-highs. Brown scored 15 points in the first half – the most by an Eagle in the opening 20 minutes this season – and featured a 7-of-10 night from three, the most threes by an Eagle in a Division I contest.
The 14-of-21 night from three translated in a .667 shooting percentage, equaling program all-time record for a game with double figure makes. The previous record of .667 was set on Dec. 20, 2003 when the Eagles made 12-of-18 against Illinois Wesleyan. FGCU’s 14 threes are the second-most in school history, falling short of the record of 16 made against Fairmont State on Jan. 22, 2005.
“Prior to the game, we talked about tonight being a special night,” said head coach Dave Balza. “It turned out to be exactly that with all the threes, Chad (Lutkenhaus) playing his final game, winning our fourth game in the last five and closing the season in seventh place in the standings. With most of our guys coming back, next year promises to be very exciting.”
Freshman Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) had a large hand in the long range barrage, making 4-of-7 from three en route to 16 points. Varidel knocked down 78 threes in his first season in the Blue and Green, the fourth-highest total in the nine-year program history.
Playing in the 112th and final game of his career, senior Chad Lutkenhaus (Labelle, Fla./Labelle HS) knocked down 2-of-3 from long range for six points. Lutkenhaus is the only player to be a member of the team in each of the Eagles’ first four years in Division I.
Despite its torrid shooting from outside, FGCU was still able to grab double figure offensive rebounds for the 26th time this season. Entering the contest as the A-Sun’s top offensive rebounding club, the Eagles snared 10 offensive caroms, led by four from sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS).
Banks’ four offensive rebounds cap a season in which he gave the Eagles 106 opportunities at second chance points. The Lantana, Fla. native finished with 17 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe to go along with his nine rebounds. Banks scored in double figures 27 times this season.
FGCU used three-pointers early and often to open up a 14-5 lead by the 12:16 mark of the opening half. Varidel started the three-point barrage for the Eagles, who scored their first 12 points from long range. Brown followed with his first of five threes in the half, while Lutkenhaus and freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South) each hit one. Banks ended the hot start with the team’s first two-point field goal.
The FGCU lead reached as high as nine, 17-8, just over a minute later (11:03) before a quick 7-0 run by the Spartans made it a 17-15 count with 9:39 on the clock.
Brown broke Upstate’s momentum, of course, with a three, sparking a string of four long range field goals for the 6-foot-4 swingman over the final 9:28 of the frame. Despite Brown’s torrid shooting, USC Upstate tied the game at 33-33 with under a minute to go.
Brown struck again, though, drilling his fifth three of the half for his 15th point to give FGCU a 36-33 lead at the half. The Blue and Green knocked down 9-of-14 from three-point land over the opening 20 minutes.
The start of the second half was eerily similar to the first, as Brown helped the Eagles jump out to an eventual game-clinching 13-0 run that ballooned the lead to 16, 49-33, with 13:51 on the clock. As the Spartans went without a point for the opening 6:24, Brown drilled a trio of three-pointers and scored 11 points during the run.
Upstate closed the gap to six, 68-62 with just over two minutes left, but the Eagles closed by making 6-of-8 free throws in the final two minutes and 19-of-25 for the game.
Junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) helped manufacture the big shooting night with a game-high seven assists. Rivera’s seven helpers give him 161 for the season, as he finished the regular season as the conference leader.
To say Brown turned in a strong last five games of his sophomore season would be an understatement, as the Orlando, Fla. product averaged 16.2 points over the span after producing just 4.9 points over the first 25 contests. Brown led the Eagles in scoring three times, while setting or equaling his career-high on three occasions.
Despite finishing in sole possession of seventh place in the final A-Sun standings, FGCU cannot compete in the conference postseason tournament due to the NCAA reclassifying period. FGCU will be eligible for postseason play in 2011-12.