(4-9, 0-1 A-Sun)
(7-7, 1-0 A-Sun)
12/30/2013 | Alico Arena (Fort Myers, FL) | Attendance: 4534
|Stats at a Glance||NKU_1_~1||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.381
DUNK CITY, Fla. – Senior Chase Fieler surpassed 1,000 career points as part of a 14-point, nine-rebound performance, while Brett Comer added 10 points and Bernard Thompson finished with a game-high 17 points to guide a balanced FGCU (7-7, 1-0 Atlantic Sun Conference) attack as part of a 60-56 win over Northern Kentucky (4-9, 0-1 A-Sun) Monday evening at Alico Arena in the league opener.
Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) became the program’s fifth member of the 1,000 point club on a lay-up at the 6:42 mark of the first half. His team-best rebound performance also moved the Eagles’ lone senior within 40 rebounds of the all-time mark held by Sherwood Brown (589) as Fieler (551) and Brown are the only players in program history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS), who joined the 1,000-point club four games earlier, scored eight points in the first half and nine more in the second stanza as he led the Eagles in scoring for just the second time this year. Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) played only 22 minutes due to foul trouble, but scored four of his points from the free-throw line and issued a team-best five assists against one turnover to move within one helper of 500 for the junior’s career.
Holding a one-point lead, 52-51, with less than five minutes to play, FGCU went on a 5-0 spurt in 26 seconds to take control of the game. It started with an acrobatic Comer finish in transition as the guard flipped the ball up high off the backboard with an NKU defender draped over him (middle photo, above). He hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, and then the nation’s leading returning steals leader, Thompson, had a theft at the other end and went coast-to-coast.
That gave the Green and Blue a six-point lead, and the Norse – in their second Division-I season – could get no closer than three the rest of the way as the Eagles opened conference action with a victory for the third straight season.
“I think our defense enabled us to get the win,” head coach Joe Dooley said of his team’s league-leading unit. “We got some stops. Another thing is our lack of turnovers. We’ve been making progress these last couple weeks.”
NKU was led by 12 points off the bench from Cole Murray and 11 rebounds from Jalen Billups. Leading scorer Jordan Jackson tallied just nine points in 12 foul-plagued minutes. For the game, the Norse shot better from the 3-point line (11-28, 39.3 percent) than from inside of it (10-29, 34.5 percent).
The Eagles threatened to run away with the game early as they raced out to a 14-5 start, but a 9-2 NKU run pulled the Norse back within two, 16-14. The FGCU lead swelled to as much as eight, 24-16, on a Thompson jumper at the 4:13 mark, but again NKU answered, and on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer went into the half down just two, 28-26.
NKU started the second half and twice held leads of four points in the opening six minutes. However, a Fieler 3-pointer started an 8-0 run and an extended 11-3 stretch to create a 46-42 FGCU edge before four straight points from the Norse made it 46-46. Included in the FGCU run were two critical 3-pointers from Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) as the junior now has 27 3’s on the year already after finishing last season with 28.
FGCU turned the ball over a season-low seven times and converted 15 NKU giveaways into 13 points. Despite students being on break, a standing-room-only crowd of 4,534 – the third largest in program history – was on hand to witness FGCU’s 22nd A-Sun win since the 2011-12 season.
That crowd also saw redshirt junior Eric McKnight’s (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy) first home game of the season. The Iowa State transfer scored four points – two on a thunderous alley-oop from Thompson – and grabbed two rebounds in 18 minutes as he continues to work his way back into the lineup after being suspended for the first 12 games of the year for a violation of team rules.
Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) put together one of his best all-around games in recent weeks with seven points and seven rebounds off the bench, in addition to his first blocked shot of the season. Dajaun Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) continued his consistent, steady play as he scored just two points but dished out three assists as the sophomore still leads the Eagles in plus/minus.
FGCU now remains at home to take on NKU’s travel partner, Lipscomb, on New Year’s Day at 5 p.m. The Bisons, who were picked 8th in the A-Sun Preseason Poll, lost at Stetson Monday night, 65-63. The Nashville-based school was the only A-Sun team to defeat the Eagles twice last year. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
GAME NOTES: Points in the paint were even, 24-24 … NKU turned 11 offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points … NKU had 25 bench points … the Eagles shot 8-10 from the free-throw line … Thompson and Comer were both 4-5 … Thompson added five rebounds and two assists.
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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.