Eight games remain now for Florida Gulf Coast University’s men’s basketball team. They head into this weekend with two opponents that gave them trouble in their previous meetings at Jacksonville and University of North Florida on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. FGCU was able to top UNF in a hard-fought battle 79-75. Just two days later, they weren’t able to hold on in Jacksonville, dropping the game 76-69. The Eagles currently sit at second in the conference with an 8-2 (14-9 overall) Atlantic Sun record. Mercer University is one game ahead of them at 9-2 and will face Kennesaw State University on Friday.
This past Friday, FGCU had one of the most exciting games of the year against Stetson. The crowd was already backing the Eagles before the tip, picking up the national anthem when the microphone began to have technical issues.
A career high in rebounds with 14 by Chase Fieler, along with 15 points, helped the Eagles to victory. Fieler played 38 of 40 minutes in the game, 10 more minutes than the second-most minutes played by Brett Comer with 28.
“It was a lot of minutes, but it’s something that we prepared for in the preseason. We’re in great shape,” Fieler said. “We’ve been practicing hard in practice, making sure practices are always harder than a game. It’s nothing we’re not used to. It’s just good coaching to get us ready for that.” Chase also added a season high in assists with four and tied his season high with three steals.
FGCU led the majority of the game until the second half when Stetson picked up their shooting to 48.4 percent, but that was not enough to top the Eagle’s 52.2 percent shooting. The game went back and forth throughout the second half, tying the game with 28 seconds remaining after Comer was unable to make two free throws just moments before.
“I thought we got off to a good start. We had really good energy and the crowd was terrifi c,” Dooley explained after the game. “But after that we got in foul trouble, and for the most part Stetson controlled the game. We did a great job fi ghting back in, but their effort in the second half—especially on the offensive backboard—really put us in harm’s way.”
Brett Comer took the ball down the court and slowed the game down for the remaining seconds to get off one fi nal play. After a drive through the middle, Comer was able to kick it out to Bernard Thompson, who made the three with 2.4 seconds remaining that would lead to the Eagle’s victory. Thompson said, “I felt pretty confi dent when I shot the ball. It was just a big shot. They contested it well. I just put it up there trying to win the game.” Bernard Thompson has been in double digits for scoring in every conference game this season.
The crowd was record-tying size that night with an attendance of 4,633. Dirty Birds had tremendous energy from the fi rst dunk by McKnight just six seconds into the game to Thompson’s game winner with 2.4 seconds.
The game against Jacksonville University on Thursday will match the Eagles against the fi rst conference opponent to beat them this season. The game will air on ESPN3 at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 and will be a pinkout.