Dominant second half secures ASUN Regular Season Championship
For the second straight season, the FGCU men’s basketball team clinched the regular season championship as they overcame a 15-point halftime deficit and won their 13th straight game by a score of 88-71 over USC Upstate.
The Eagles trailed by as many as 18 but scored 59 points in the second half and shot 72.7 percent from the field. The Spartans were held to just 26.5 percent in what was one of the most dominating second halves in FGCU history.
Even more impressive was that 56 of the 59 points came from either the free throw line of the in the paint with the exception of a Zach Johnson three. They are also the first team in the nation to clinch the regular season championship.
RaySean Scott scored a career-high 21 points off the bench, and Johnson and Brandon Goodwin combined for 33 points. Christian Terrell added 11 off the bench for his straight double-figure scoring game, and Antravious Simmons was the other Eagle to score in double figures with 11.
“We had no answer early; they made a bunch of 3s – and we’re usually a good 3-point defensive team,” said head coach Joe Dooley. “We were able to get some stops in the 2nd half and get out in transition for some easy buckets. We mixed up our defenses a little bit and were able to get Upstate off the 3-point line in the 2nd half.”
men’sEarly on for the Eagles, it was about as dreadful as a start as you can imagine as they surrendered the first 11 points of the game and did not score until 3:25 into the game on a pair of free throws from Scott.
They also missed their first 11 field goals of the game until Scott knocked that down as well. They were one for 16 from the field until Terrell knocked down a three, but FGCU trailed by 10 through eight minutes.
After a pair of attempted alley-oops that FGCU couldn’t connect, the Spartans went on to hit three straight triples and USC Upstate went up 27-10 as Dooley was left with just one timeout left in the first half.
The Spartans went on to hit nine threes in the first half and nearly hit one at the buzzer, but it was a shot clock violation and the Eagles went into the break down by 15. Mike Cunningham had five of those threes for the Spartans, and he had 15 in the first half.
FGCU was out rebounded 27-18 in the first half and shot 31 percent from the floor despite the size advantage down low.
Out of the break, it was a completely different team that played as the Eagles scored four straight to force the Spartans head coach Kyle Perry to call a time out.
Much like the game the Eagles played in Lipscomb last month when FGCU came back from down 18 points to get a win, they started the half on a 12-3 run to cut the deficit to six as the Eagles were able to get to the hoop.
“I think we tried to do that a little in the first half, but we weren’t as aggressive as we were in the second half,” Goodwin said. “I thought it took us going into the locker room to refocus and sharpen up and keep each other motivated.”
The first lead of the game came up at the 11:09 mark on a three-point play by Johnson. On the very next possession, Terrell forced a steal and converted FGCU’s fourth three-point play in a stretch of a little over five minutes and the Eagles picked up their sixth straight 20 win season.
“In the second half, we had to come out with a lot more energy,” said Scott. “In the first half, we were kind of flat. As you know, they jumped on us but in the second half, we turned it around and got a big win.”
This was the final game FGCU will play in Spartanville, as the USC Upstate is heading to the Big South next season. The two teams would meet in the ASUN tournament if the season ended today, but it would be in Fort Myers as the Eagles have the top seed.
Up next, FGCU will take on Kennesaw State on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 7.pm at Alico Arena. The last time these two teams met was in Georgia where FGCU won 66-49.