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Men’s Basketball Upsets No. 7 FAU for Biggest Home Win in Program History

Jessica Piland

The biggest game of the season for the FGCU men’s basketball team came in the final week of 2023. The Eagles were set to play the seventh ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls who entered this game 10-2 after beating the fourth ranked University of Arizona in Las Vegas at home on Dec. 30. In a stunning upset, the Eagles defeated the Owls, 72-68, to earn a massive win to wrap up the nonconference schedule with a 6-9 record. 

FGCU came into this game with a 5-9 record after beating Florida Memorial University in a 78-75 overtime thriller on Dec. 22. They looked to continue their winning streak heading into ASUN conference play.

This matchup marks the first top 10 ranked opponent to play against FGCU at Alico Arena in program history. At this point in the season, the Eagles have only lost one game at home, which was against UNC-Wilmington.

As tipoff began, both teams started the game off hot. FAU scored the first points of the game off of a layup, while FGCU responded by scoring two free throws. This continued throughout the early minutes of the first half until FGCU scored a flurry of points six minutes in to grab the first sizable lead for either team.

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Junior forward Zach Anderson and graduate student and guard Franco Miller Jr. sparked this run as both of them scored 3-pointers. Senior guard Cyrus Largie then gave the Eagles a six point lead. This run shook Alico Arena with cheers as the Dirty Birds realized that they had a chance to witness FGCU basketball history occur.

This momentum allowed FGCU to expand their lead to nine points before the half was over. FAU would only be able to bring the game to a tie twice throughout the rest of the game. FGCU ended the first half with a 39-30 lead.

Heading into halftime, a big reason that the Eagles held a lead was because of the pace of play and turnovers. FGCU led in both statistics in the half as the Eagles had 11 points off of turnovers and six points on the fast break compared to the Owls’ four and two points in each statistic, respectively.

A huge factor that kept FAU in the game came in the form of 7 ‘1 center Vladislav Goldin. He has been a focal point on the Owls’ offense this season and this game was no different. He went on to score 21 points, shooting 7/9 from the field and 7/12 at the free throw line.

The second half saw a combined 15 fouls between both teams, nine of which were called on the Eagles. This assisted FAU in staying within ten points of the Eagles as they slowly cut into FGCU’s advantage as it was under six points with seven minutes left.

As the game reached its final two minutes, both teams were tied up at 68 apiece. Junior guard Dallion Johnson sank a three to give the Eagles the lead back late. FGCU solidified their win with Miller Jr. making a free throw to extend the lead to four points.

FGCU beat FAU 72-68 in what is their biggest win since beating seventh-seeded San Diego State, 81-71, in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Jessica Piland

The Eagles have had to battle through adversity this season. They started the season tying the worst start in program history and have had to deal with injuries up to this point of the season. Head coach Pat Chambers discussed how fortune has finally come their way.

“We created our luck tonight. We had everything going against us. I mean, everything, I’ll pull quotes, I don’t want to get in trouble with the league. We had everything going against us tonight. Yet we still found a way. Our foundation is attitude,” Chambers said. “These guys were saying it in the huddles, I was saying it on the sidelines and probably could have said it a couple more times, actually. But when it got tied. When they tied the game up, these guys accepted the challenge. They held on.”

FGCU entered this game after beating NAIA school Florida Memorial University in a constant back-and-forth battle, winning that game on a last-second shot in overtime. The Eagles turned that around against FAU, holding the lead for over 30 minutes. Chambers provided input on what the team worked on to make this turnaround.

“We worked on defending and rebounding. As much as I didn’t want to watch that film, they didn’t want to watch that film. We watched that film. So visually, we’ve gotten better, on the court we’ve gotten better, but again, it’s because of their leadership with Keeshawn and I.T. [Isaiah Thompson] those practices are sound, solid and very efficient,” Chambers said. “If you practice well for three days, you’re gonna play well despite [being] number seven in the country, and that’s a heck of a good team.”

Anderson led the team in points with 21. He also had 10 rebounds for a double-double on the night. He commented on the environment the Dirty Birds brought to Alico Arena.

“It was great. Like you said, we usually don’t have that many fans in there. So it was wild to see everybody in there,” Anderson said. “The energy was great. It was contagious. I felt like we built off of that energy and we were able to get the job done.”

A win like that can be a season altering win. The Eagles, now 6-9, will try to add to this win streak of three games when they get back in action at home on Thursday against Jacksonville University to start ASUN Conference play.

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About the Contributors
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.
Jessica Piland
Jessica Piland, Eagle News Photo Editor
Jessica Piland is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in global studies. She found her passion for photography during her senior year of high school after shooting some film for fun with her grandfather’s camera from the 80s. In addition to her work as photo editor for Eagle News, she works as a staff photographer for FGCU Athletics and is a photography intern with the University Marketing and Communications department. As she enters her third year as photo editor, she is excited for the fun stories, campus events, and breaking news that Eagle News will be covering!

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