(9-7, 3-0 A-Sun)
(3-12, 1-2 A-Sun)
1/5/2014 | DeLand, Fla. (Edmunds Center) | Attendance: 1248
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||STET|
|3P FG Percentage||.318
DeLAND, Fla. – Behind 14 points each from Eric McKnight and Bernard Thompson, the FGCU men’s basketball team (9-7, 3-0 Atlantic Sun Conference) continued its best-ever league start with a 68-55 win at Stetson (3-12, 1-2 A-Sun) Sunday afternoon.
McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy) played his best game of the season in his fourth game back from a suspension, and arguably the best of the redshirt junior’s career. The Iowa State transfer went 7-7 from the field to finish one point shy of his career high (15 points vs. Toledo last year) and added a game-high-tying eight rebounds to aid in FGCU’s 44-28 rebounding edge.
Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) didn’t score in the first half and played just five minutes because of foul trouble, but bounced back in the second half to log 19 minutes of action and corral four of his six rebounds. Thompson helped ice the game for FGCU as he scored 10 of his points in the final five minutes of the contest. With the Eagles leading by five, 56-51, with 2:30 left, the junior hit a 3-pointer to give FGCU an eight-point lead, and Stetson would get no closer than six the rest of the day.
FGCU trailed most of the first seven minutes and got down by four, 11-7, before the Eagles went on a 12-0 run in a three-minute span and never again trailed. After getting down at the half, 34-28, Stetson trimmed its deficit to three on four different occasions in the second half, with the last one coming at the 5-minute mark. However, like they did on each of the first three runs, the Eagles had an answer as Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) knocked down a 3-pointer as FGCU closed the game on an 18-8 run.
“Defensively we had some stretches where we played some really good basketball,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “Offensively we had a few spots where we were a little careless and I thought that we weren’t necessarily in sync, but some of that should be credited to Stetson. Bernard was terrific in the second half, especially in the last six minutes, and I thought that Eric played his best game since he’s been back.”
The FGCU bench provided a huge spark for the first-place Eagles, finishing with 21 points for the second-consecutive game. Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) knocked down three crucial 3-pointers as he finished with 11 points, and Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) continued his hot play with seven points and two assists against zero turnovers – his second straight game of multiple assists without a turnover.
Sixteen of the 21 bench points came in the first half as the Green and Blue held a 16-0 edge in that category at the halftime break. That stat is further accentuated when considering two of FGCU’s top three scorers – Thompson and Fieler – played limited minutes due to foul trouble.
After finishing with a career-high 24 points against Lipscomb Wednesday, Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) didn’t score versus Stetson, but did issue a game-best eight assists against just three turnovers and grabbed a season-high six rebounds. The last time the junior guard – who came in as FGCU’s leading scorer at 14.9 per game – didn’t score in a game was Jan. 12, 2013 against ETSU, but he made his presence felt in that game as well, issuing 10 assists.
Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy) just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high tying eight rebounds. The Marquette transfer also passed out a career-high-tying three assists as he entered the game with only 10 helpers total on the campaign. Fieler finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 19 foul-plagued minutes before fouling out with a little more than three minutes to play. However, those four rebounds were all on the offensive end as for the game the Eagles corralled 18 offensive boards – the second most this year.
The A-Sun’s leading defensive team, FGCU lowered its scoring average allowed for the seventh straight game in limiting Stetson to just 38.5-percent shooting (20-52) from the field, including a 3-18 performance (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Thompson moved into sole possession of third place on the program’s all-time scoring list as he now has 1,098 career points, 143 behind Sherwood Brown’s 1,241. Ryan Hopkins (2002-05) holds the program record with 1,367, a total the junior has a shot of eclipsing this season.
Stetson was led by 24 points from Willie Green, who finished as the lone double-figure scorer for the Hatters and represented nearly half of their points. Brian Pegg had eight points and eight rebounds off the bench, and six of Stetson’s 28 rebounds were of the dead-ball variety.
With the win, FGCU sets up an early-season clash with the University of North Florida on Thursday night at 7 in Jacksonville. The Eagles and Ospreys are tied for first place with 3-0 records after the first week of conference play. Following the meeting with UNF, FGCU remains in the area to face Jacksonville University at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.
GAME NOTES: FGCU only shot 40.3 percent (25-62) from the floor, but attempted 10 more shots than Stetson … Kevin Boyle knocked down a lengthy 3-pointer in the first half … the Eagles went 11-15 (73.3 percent) from the free-throw line … Stetson held a 32-22 edge in the paint … FGCU made seven 3-pointers (7-22, 31.8 percent).