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Eagles Men’s Basketball Avoids Upset Against Ave Maria in Home Opener

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

Opening their home slate of games on Nov. 10, the FGCU men’s basketball team hosted Ave Maria University. The Eagles were able to come out with a hard fought 80-71 victory over the Gyrenes in front of the home crowd to even their record at 1-1.

Heading into the home opener, FGCU lost a close game on the road to open the season against the Indiana Hoosiers, 69-63. Ave Maria, on the other hand, came into the game 5-0 in NAIA play. The Gyrenes had just defeated Florida College, 102-96, and considered this game as an exhibition.

These two teams have met seven times in the past with FGCU winning all of those previous matchups. Last year, the Eagles won in blowout fashion, 105 – 61.

Ave Maria didn’t play like it was an exhibition game though. The Gyrenes jumped on the Eagles early on and held on to the lead, mostly because of lights out shooting from the three-point line. The Eagles didn’t grab their first lead of the game, 23-21, until there were just over eight minutes left in the first half.

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FGCU was cold from the three-point line early on, shooting just 1/13 at one point. After a slow start, the offense got it together and started playing more consistently. This led to a seven point lead, the largest lead the Eagles had so far. 

However, Ave Maria would not give up the lead that easily, responding to almost everything that the FGCU did. That would be the theme throughout the game as the Eagles led the Gyrenes surprisingly just by two points, 43-41, at halftime.

Starting the second half, the Gyrenes retook the lead, 51-45, with a 10-2 run. The two teams matched buckets for a bit but then the Eagles went on a 7-0 run of their own. This run culminated in a three-pointer from senior guard Isaiah Thompson to tie the game up at 58. It was Thompson’s only basket of the game but it was pivotal.

The game was tied up twice again after this point at 68 with under six minutes to go and at 71 with under four minutes to go. The key difference maker in this game was shooting from the three-point line by both teams. The three-point line kept Ave Maria in the contest as the Gyrenes shot a ridiculous 15/50 from three, good for 30%. The Eagles shot just 6/31, good for only 19.4%.

When push came to shove, the Eagles came through in the clutch. Thompson threw up a lob to senior forward Keeshawn Kellman who slammed it through. Kellman was also fouled on the play and made the free throw, which gave FGCU a 74-71 lead late that they wouldn’t relinquish.

FGCU ended up securing a 80-71 victory over Ave Maria in the home opener. Graduate student and guard Franco Miller Jr led the team in scoring with 15 points. It was a little too close for comfort but the Eagles avoided the upset to move to 1-1 on the season. Now, FGCU heads up north to face off against Pittsburgh later today.

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About the Contributor
James Curtis
James Curtis, Eagle News Sports Editor
James Curtis is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in global studies. He is from Tampa, FL, and has known he wanted to be a journalist since taking a journalism class in seventh grade. He has been involved in sports for his whole life, including swimming competitively all the way through high school. His goal now is to be a sports journalist. When not covering sports games or writing stories, he's usually spending his free time with his friends or watching YouTube.

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