Florida Gulf Coast
3/3/2012 | Macon, Ga. - University Center | Attendance: 1121
|Florida Gulf Coast||42||27||69|
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||BEL|
|3P FG Percentage||.276
Sixth-seeded Eagles fall to top-seeded Bruins, 83-69
MACON, Ga. – Behind four starters in double figures and a strong second half, top-seeded Belmont fought back from a 13-point deficit in the first half to end sixth-seeded FGCU’s magical run towards an Atlantic Sun Championship with an 83-69 win Saturday night in the tournament finale at the University Center.
Just the sixth team in the 33-year history of the A-Sun Tournament to make the championship in its first-ever appearance, FGCU (15-17) finishes the 2011-12 campaign with a program Division I record 15 wins under first-year head coach Andy Enfield.
“I can’t say enough about this team. We came into the tournament struggling, but the guys stuck together and showed what can happen when you believe in each other,” said Enfield. “There’s a lot of great things we can take out of this season and use next year, but we need to sit back enjoy what we were able to accomplish in such a short time.”
Belmont, who earns the A-Sun’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, has won five of the last seven conference postseason tournaments. The Bruins will enter the NCAA Tournament riding a 14-game win streak and sport a 27-7 overall record.
FGCU was led by freshman point guard Brett Comer’s (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) game-high 20 points and seven assists en route to being named to the A-Sun All-Tournament team. Pinned up against one of the nation’s premiere point guards in Kerron Johnson, Comer’s second career 20-point game featured a 7-of-11 night from the field, while his 178 assists are the second most in single-season history and a program D-1 record.
Along with Comer, fellow freshman Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) was the catalyst to FGCU’s torrid start that saw the Eagles own a 35-22 lead with just over six minutes left in the first half. Cvjeticanin scored eight of FGCU’s first 10 points and finished with all 13 of his points in the opening frame on the strength of three trifectas.
After being held in check on the offensive end in the first half, Johnson broke loose in the second half and finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to earn A-Sun Tournament MVP honors. Junior Ian Clark - Belmont’s other All-Tournament team choice - was the lone bright spot during a 13-of-33 shooting performance by the Bruins in the first half. Clark scored 14 of his team-best 16 points in the first 20 minutes, highlighted by a three-pointer with time winding down to cut the FGCU lead to 42-39 at the half.
Following a bucket by freshman Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) to open the second half, Belmont went on a game-changing 19-6 run that absorbed nearly nine minutes and ended at the 10:28 mark with the Bruins holding a 58-50 lead.
A three-pointer by Comer with 9:05 to play brought FGCU to within four, 59-55, but that was as close as the Green and Blue would come, as Belmont would reel off a quick 9-0 run over the next 2:40 to take a commanding 68-55 lead.
After pulling off upset wins over No. 3 USC Upstate and No. 2 Mercer the previous two nights, FGCU couldn’t muster up one more comeback, falling just short of an NCAA Tournament bid in the program’s very first year of eligibility.
Playing in his final game as an Eagle, senior Kevin Cantinol (Clearwater, Fla./Calvary Christian HS/Ole Miss) saved his best for last with a career-high 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks off the bench. Thompson and junior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) contributed nine point each. Averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over the three games, Brown joined Comer on the A-Sun All-Tournament team.
As a team, FGCU shot 50 percent (16-32) in the first half, but dipped to a 32 percent clip in the second. On the flipside, Belmont bounced back from a 39 percent (13-33) opening half to shoot 56 percent (14-25) in the final 20 minutes.
Belmont’s senior frontcourt duo of Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders combined for 26 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Blake Jenkins had 11 second half points.