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Eagles beat USC Upstate in ASUN quarterfinals

With the Eagles dressing all 12 scholarships athletes for the first time this season, FGCU advanced to the semi-finals of the ASUN tournament with a 96-76 win over USC Upstate in their final game in the ASUN conference.

“I thought once we got our defensive balance going, I thought we did a little better and wore them down,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “The big thing was rebounding the ball. We didn’t rebound the ball great, but we’ll work on that.”

The Eagles led by seven midway through the second half and after a Mike Cunningham three-pointer, he would get a technical for taunting the crowd right by FGCU’s bench. USC Upstate would pick up another one right after from head coach Kyle Perry and Dinero Mercurius would hit all four free throws which would spark the Eagles to a 57-point second half.

“I probably made a mistake getting the technical, but I didn’t like what the [referee] said to me,” Perry said. “I felt like it was a ridiculous thing he said. If I could take it back, I would. I felt like I hurt my team.”

Zach Johnson led FGCU with 26 points, one shy of his career high of 27. Christian Terrell had 18 and a career high eight assists. Johnson and Terrell combined for 8 of the 11 three-pointers from the Eagles.

“Always a sense of urgency in a game like this, “Johnson said. “You want to make sure you’re making the right plays, making the right decisions, playing the right way. Luckily for me I was hitting a couple of shots and trying to find my teammates open and make the right basketball play.”

Antravious Simmons also had 18 points, as he helped FGCU have a 40-20 advantage in points in the paint. The bench also outscored Upstate 29-5. Cunningham did have a career-high 28 for Upstate to lead all scorers.

The Eagles trailed by as many as four in the first half and led by nine at one point, but only took a three-point lead into halftime. Upstate shot 53 percent from the field and hit six three-pointers with Malik Moore scoring 14 in the opening quarter.

FGCU did shoot 52 percent from the field as well and were able to get a huge bucket thanks to RaySean Scott right before the half f expired. After their struggles from behind the arc recently, the Eagles did have five three-pointers and scored 13 points off 10 Spartans turnovers.

Goodwin was held to three points in the first half, but that would not last as he finished with nine. FGCU would go five for seven from deep in the second half and cruise from there and win by 20 in front of many students and fans.

“They were really into it,” Terrell said. “They were chanting things out at different players that did something and they were really just great.”

Up next, the Eagles will face #5 UNF in the semi-finals of this year’s ASUN Tournament on Thursday at 7 P.M. The Eagles defeated the Ospreys in both their meetings this season by an average of 21 points, including a 33-point win at home earlier this season.

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