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Comeback Attempt Falls Just Short as Men’s Basketball Drops Another Game to Kennesaw State

Jessica Piland

Entering the last two home games of the regular season, the FGCU men’s basketball team first welcomed Kennesaw State on Feb. 22. Down at halftime and then by 15 points early in the second half, the Eagles rallied back but their comeback attempt fell just short as they lost 74-67 as their record drops to 11-17 overall and 5-8 in conference play.

Leading up to this game, the Eagles were sitting at 11-16 overall and 5-7 in conference play. In their most recent game, FGCU lost on the road to Stetson 61-60.

Kennesaw State was 14-13 overall and 5-8 in conference play heading into this game. The Owls recently dropped a home game to North Florida 82-81. The Owls defeated the Eagles at home on Jan. 12 with a buzzer beater 3-pointer 78-75 but since then, the Owls had a 2-8 record. With both teams still vying for a spot in the 2024 ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship tournament, this game had significant importance for the winner to get closer to that goal.

Kennesaw State went on a 6-0 run to start the game before junior guard Dallion Johnson got FGCU on the board just over three minutes in. On a fastbreak opportunity, senior guard Isaiah Thompson fought through contact to give the Eagles a 10-8 lead, which was their first lead of the game.

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A few possessions later, that lead was later extended to five points after Johnson made a 3-pointer. But with good defense by the Owls and some mistakes by the Eagles, the game was tied at 15-15. The Owls were then able to grab the lead and extend it to double digits off of a 3-pointer to make the score 30-18.

The Eagles were finally able to respond with two 3-pointers by Johnson and a couple free throws to cut the lead down to four points. To end the first half, Kennesaw State led 37-30. Despite trailing for a significant portion of the half, the Eagles were only down by seven points. At this point, the Owls were shooting better and turning the ball over less. That was the difference that needed to be cleaned up heading in the second half.

Opening up the second half, Johnson hit a 3-pointer that gave FGCU their first points of the half. However, Kennesaw State was able to push the lead to double digits as the Owls were up 43-33. Not a lot of things went right for FGCU to start the half as they faced a 15 point deficit, the largest of the game for either side, at 52-37.

But the Eagles were able to close that gap by going on a 15-2 scoring run in just under three minutes and the Owls’ lead was cut to just two points at 54-52. With two free throws by Thompson with about 7:30 left to play, the Eagles led 59-58 for their first lead since early in the game.

The lead was traded between the teams for the next minute or so. A slam dunk by senior forward Keeshawn Kellman gave FGCU another one point lead and a few possessions later, Kellman scored again as the Eagles held a 63-62 lead with under six minutes left in the game.

After spending all that time trying to come back for much of the second half and then trading the lead with Kennesaw State, FGCU was unable to keep that momentum going. The Owls were able to capitalize on that by regaining the lead and extending it to six points two separate times.

In the end, the Eagles’ comeback attempt fell just short of the mark as the Owls came away with the victory 74-67. Some timely possessions at the end of the game didn’t go FGCU’s way and some untimely turnovers hurt the team at the same time. The Owls won both games against the Eagles this season.

Four Eagles scored in double figures as Kellman led the team with 17 points on perfect shooting. Johnson had 15 points, with most of those points coming in the first half to keep the game close early. Thompson and graduate student and guard Franco Miller Jr. scored 13 and 12 points respectively.

Now FGCU sits at 11-17 overall and 5-8 in conference play which is good for ninth in the ASUN Conference. The Eagles have to finish tenth or higher in order to qualify for the conference tournament as the bottom two teams in the conference are eliminated from tournament contention. FGCU will welcome Queens for their last home game of the regular season and senior night on Feb. 24.

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About the Contributors
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.
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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