MACON, Ga. – The reigning Atlantic Sun Tournament champion FGCU men’s basketball team unveiled its 18-game A-Sun regular slate on Wednesday, highlighted by a home contest against Northern Kentucky on the opening night of league action and seven straight games in the state of Florida to open up.
Coming off a campaign in which it earned the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun Tournament thanks to a program record 13 conference wins, the 18-game slate features a home-and-home with the other nine league opponents. In 2012-13, the Eagles went 8-1 at Alico Arena in A-Sun action.
The A-Sun home opener against Northern Kentucky on Dec. 30th will mark just the second time in seven seasons that the Green and Blue will open the league slate at Alico Arena. The Norse entered the A-Sun and the Division I ranks last season, as the Eagles took both games in the series. FGCU’s home-opening start will continue on New Year’s Day against Lipscomb, marking the first time in program history the Eagles have played on New Year’s Day.
FGCU’s third game in eight days to open A-Sun action will be a quick trip to in-state rival Stetson on Monday, Jan. 6, at the Edmunds Center. The two teams have split the season series the last two years, while the Eagles eliminated the No. 3 seed Hatters from postseason action in 2013 with a 72-58 victory in the A-Sun semifinals. Reigning A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) equaled a career-high six seals in both regular season contests against Stetson, helping him finish second in the nation with 102 thefts, which also ranked second all-time in A-Sun single-season history.
The first two-game A-Sun road trip will take FGCU to the northern part of the state where, in 2012-13, it swept both games at North Florida and at Jacksonville for the first time in program history. The Green and Blue will open road swing at UNF on Thursday, Jan. 9, before taking on Jacksonville on Saturday, Jan. 11. FGCU swept both teams last year in the regular season and defeated the Ospreys in the A-Sun quarterfinals. During their two-game trip to Jacksonville last year, the Eagles averaged 85.0 points per contest led by 19.0 points per night from junior-to-be Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS).
The final two games of the Green and Blue’s seven straight in the state of Florida concludes with back-to-back home games against USC Upstate (Jan. 16) and ETSU (Jan. 18). Then-junior Chase Fieler’s (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) layup with 1.2 seconds left in overtime helped the Eagles snap USC Upstate’s 12-game home win streak last winter as the Eagles went on to complete the season sweep. FGCU split the season series with ETSU last year, recording a program-record 13 blocks in the 67-43 victory at Alico Arena.
The first half of the A-Sun slate comes to an end with a trip to Georgia, beginning with an A-Sun championship game rematch with Mercer on Thursday, Jan. 23. The Eagles eliminated the Bears from the A-Sun Tournament on their home court for the second straight year last March with an 88-75 win that resulted in FGCU’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in its second year of postseason eligibility. The final game of the first rotation will pin the Eagles at Kennesaw State on Saturday, Jan. 25 at the KSU Convocation Center, where the Green and Blue opened the 2012-13 A-Sun slate. FGCU has swept the season series with the Owls the last two years.
After five days off from game action, FGCU will start up the second half of A-Sun play with three straight home games against Stetson (Jan. 31), Jacksonville (Feb. 6) and UNF (Feb. 8). The Eagles will play four of their last six regular season games on the road with a senior day showdown against Mercer concluding the Alico Arena schedule on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Times for the A-Sun sun contests will be available at a later date along with the non-conference portion of FGCU’s schedule, although the program did announce its participation in the 2013 Las Vegas Classic last week. As part of the tournament, the Eagles head to American Athletic Conference (formerly the BIG EAST) member USF on Dec. 17 before going to SEC foe Mississippi State on Dec. 19. FGCU will then go west to Las Vegas where it will play two games against a field of FAMU, Radford and Sacred Heart. The Green and Blue’s first round matchup on Dec. 22 with one of the three opponents has not been unveiled with the winners and losers from the two contests meeting the next day.
FGCU returns four starters from last year’s team that posted three consecutive double-digit wins en route to the A-Sun title and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament in just its second year of postseason eligibility. FGCU became the first No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Sweet 16 and the first team since the 1987 Florida squad to win its first two tournament games. The Eagles opened with a second round win over No. 2 seed Georgetown and followed with a win over No. 7 seed San Diego State in the third round to earn a trip to Dallas Cowboys Stadium for the South Region semifinals. FGCU finished with a program Division I record 26 wins (26-11), including a 15-1 mark at Alico Arena.
A-Sun Conference Schedule
Dec. 30 vs. NORTHERN KENTUCKY
Jan. 1 vs. LIPSCOMB
Jan. 6 at Stetson
Jan. 9 at UNF
Jan. 11 at Jacksonville
Jan. 16 vs. USC UPSTATE
Jan. 18 vs. ETSU
Jan. 23 at Mercer
Jan. 25 at Kennesaw State
Jan. 31 vs. STETSON
Feb. 6 vs. JACKSONVILLE
Feb. 8 vs. UNF
Feb. 13 at ETSU
Feb. 15 at USC Upstate
Feb. 20 vs. KENNESAW STATE
Feb. 22 vs. MERCER
Feb. 27 at Lipscomb
Mar. 1 at Northern Kentucky
*-Home games in bold & CAPS