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Men’s Basketball on the Brink of ASUN Conference Tournament Spot After Senior Night Win Over Queens

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

On Feb. 24, the FGCU men’s basketball team played against the 12-17 Queens University of Charlotte Royals for their final home game of the regular season. The Eagles entered this game on the brink of the ASUN Conference tournament cutoff. FGCU had dropped their last two games, slotting them ninth in the conference standings before this game. The Eagles were able to turn their losing streak around with a 90-81 victory over the Royals.

For many Eagles, it would be the last time they would step inside Alico Arena. Before the game started, seniors Isaiah Thompson, Keeshawn Kellman, Dakota Rivers, Cyrus Largie and graduate student Franco Miller Jr. would be recognized for their contributions to the FGCU men’s basketball program with their jerseys framed for senior night. The five of them marked an all-senior starting lineup. Head coach Pat Chambers provided input on what it meant to coach these seniors over the past two seasons.

“Those guys mean the world to this program,” Chambers said. “I know the prior coach would say the same thing. They committed to him, we retained them, we kept them. They love FGCU, they love this program, they love this university and they love the community. It’s what it’s about.”

The Eagles entered this game with a record of 11-17 after losing to the Kennesaw State Owls. This put the Eagles in a must-win situation. With a win, they could control their destiny for their conference tournament aspirations. If they lost, they would have to rely on other conference games going in their favor to allow them to secure a spot.

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FGCU started the game with Kellman putting the first points on the board. However, the Eagles were quickly behind as the Royals followed that up by making three 3-pointers in a row to give Queens University a 9-4 lead. This lead only grew as the half continued, leading to a 14-point lead for the Royals through just seven minutes of play. 

Queens University pulled ahead to that advantage because of the Eagles not taking advantage of second chance opportunities and turnovers due to lazy passes in an attempt to make a play that was not there. 

The Eagles slowly chipped away at the Royals’ lead throughout the rest of the half. Junior forward Zach Anderson and Kellman combined for 22 points and 10 rebounds in the first half to bring the Eagles back into the game after the deficit they faced. The Eagles took a one-point lead at one point during this scoring run, but the Royals exited the first half with a 39-38 lead.

To start the second half, the Eagles scored six points unanswered to take a 44-39 lead in under two minutes. After the Eagles gained this lead, they would hold it for the duration of the game as FGCU had a dominant shooting performance in the second half.

The Eagles outshot the Royals in the second half, going 18/28 from the field and 6/11 from the 3-point line. This was in part due to Thompson getting involved in the game. He had been in a scoring slump over the last few games, scoring 22 points over his last three games. In the second half of this game, Thompson scored all 16 of his points.

Anderson dominated the second half, scoring 14 points and only missing two shots. Combined with Anderson’s first-half performance, scoring 12 points, he would achieve a career high of 26 points to close out the last game at home for the 2023-24 season. 

“I think they [Zach Anderson and Isaiah Thompson] were out of the slump right, three for five. Damn good shooting, right?” Chambers said. “So now, because he’s [Zach Anderson] able to score the basketball, it opens up so much for everybody else. We need that production from these guys.”

Anderson and Thompson’s performances allowed the Eagles to outscore the Royals by 10 points throughout the second half. This culminated in a 90-81 victory to keep the Eagles in conference tournament contention.

Named ASUN Newcomer of the Week, Kellman scored 18 points in the game, which marked his fifth straight game scoring in double digits. This performance marked his ninth double-double as well as he secured 14 rebounds on the night. He discussed his favorite moment at FGCU after his final home game.

“When we beat FAU at home,” Kellman said. “It was an amazing atmosphere, and that was a combination of all the work we put into the summer.”

The Eagles exit this game with a 12-17 record and an ASUN Conference record of 6-8. The Eagles have two more games left in the regular season where they head to Jacksonville for road games against the North Florida Ospreys on Feb. 28 and the Jacksonville Dolphins on March 1. FGCU only needs to beat one team to earn a spot in the conference tournament.

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About the Contributor
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.

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