2/15/2014 | Spartanburg, S.C. - Hodge Center | Attendance: 807
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||UPST|
|3P FG Percentage||.579
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Bernard Thompson led all scorers with 24 points, FGCU (17-10, 11-3 Atlantic Sun Conference) shot 59 percent from the floor and the Eagles recorded a season-best 14 steals to earn a critical 84-80 win over third-place USC Upstate (15-14, 8-6 A-Sun) Saturday afternoon to move back within a half-game of first place in the league ledger.
FGCU started the game on a 12-0 run, but USC Upstate responded and took a 41-38 lead into the half. An extended 19-9 run bridging both halves by the Eagles turned a five-point FGCU deficit into a five-point lead, 55-50, early in the second half. From there, Upstate could get no closer than two points over the final 15 minutes as the Eagles handed the Spartans just their second home loss of the year – and first in A-Sun action.
Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) tallied 18 of his 24 points – the most the junior has ever scored against an A-Sun opponent – in the second half, connecting on four 3-pointers and 8-9 from the free-throw line. Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) added 17 points on 7-8 from the floor, Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) netted 14 and Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) contributed 10 to round out the quartet of FGCU double-figure scorers.
“We talked about bouncing back and doing the things we needed to fundamentally in order to win the game,” head coach Joe Dooley said of FGCU responding from Thursday’s loss at ETSU. “For the most part Upstate did a good job of battling back a couple times and even controlling the game at certain points, but our guys found a way to get the job done.”
The Eagles started the game in the exact manner they wanted, storming out to that fast start not even three minutes in. However, Upstate quickly responded, and by the 13:53 mark the contest was tied for the first time at 13-13. FGCU then mounted its own run, and following a Jones’ baseline 3-pointer took an eight-point edge, 23-15, with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
But a 12-3 Spartans’ run over the next three minutes put the hosts – who are now 9-2 in their gym this year – ahead for the first time at the 8-minute mark, 27-26. The two teams traded buckets over the final eight minutes before Graf hit a floater in the lane on FGCU’s final possession of the stanza to pull the Green and Blue within three at the break.
The final lead change of the afternoon came at the 16:57 mark of the second half when Thompson hit a 3-pointer to put FGCU in front, 48-47. The advantage grew to as much as 10, 66-56, following a Thompson steal and one-handed dunk with 10 minutes remaining. Upstate trimmed the deficit to two, 82-80, with 21 seconds left before fouling Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS). The junior hit the first attempt but missed the second, giving Upstate a chance to tie. However, the Eagles forced Torrey Craig into a lengthy 3-pointer, and Thompson iced the win at the line.
Comer dished out a season-high-tying 10 assists while finishing with eight points and a season-best four steals, despite playing only 13 minutes in the second half with foul trouble. Thompson added a team-high-tying six rebounds and season-best five steals, and has now tallied 47 points in the last two games. Fieler added a season-high-tying four assists and five rebounds, while Jones matched Thompson’s six boards.
FGCU shot 55.6 percent (15-27) from the field in the first half and 62.5 percent (15-24) in the second half to help overcome 18 turnovers, the most the Green and Blue have committed in an A-Sun game this year and tied for the second most overall. The Eagles also knocked down 11 3-pointers (11-19, 57.9 percent), their second most in any contest this year and nearly two times above their season average of 5.6.
Ricardo Glenn led Upstate with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Jodd Maxey netted 16, Craig added 14 and Fred Miller contributed 10 for the Spartans. Upstate – which entered as the leading offensive rebounding team in the league – pulled down 15 offensive rebounds and finished with a 33-30 edge on the glass overall. The 15 offensive rebounds led to 18 second-chance points for the Spartans, nearly twice the 9.3 FGCU allows on average.
The victory pulls FGCU even with Mercer (11-2) in the win column heading into arguably the most highly-anticipated A-Sun game of the year Friday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. in a nationally-televised contest on ESPNU in Alico Arena. Mercer will take on Northern Kentucky (8-18, 4-10 A-Sun) on Sunday. Even with a win by the Bears against NKU, FGCU can pull even at the top of the standings with a victory Friday.
The triumph over USC Upstate was crucial for FGCU in terms of tie-breaking scenarios as FGCU is now a perfect 2-0 against UNF and Upstate, two of the three teams currently tied for third place. ETSU (8-6) is the other, and FGCU is 1-1 against the Bucs this year. Meanwhile, Mercer is 1-1 against both USC Upstate and UNF, giving the Eagles a tiebreaking advantage with a victory Friday over Mercer.
The Mercer game is already sold out, with only a limited amount of student tickets remaining. If all student tickets are not claimed at the Alico Arena Ticket Office by 5 p.m. Thursday, they will be made available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis. Following that contest, FGCU will take on Kennesaw State in its final home game of the regular season on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1:30 p.m. The outing will serve as Senior Day for the Eagles.
GAME NOTES: Eric McKnight added six points for the Eagles … FGCU shot 61.9 percent (13-21) from the free-throw line … FGCU had 18 assists … Upstate shot 46.7 percent (28-60) from the field … the Spartans won the battle of points in the paint, 40-34 … FGCU had 25 points off 16 Upstate turnovers.
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