Dunk City earns ticket to A-Sun Championship
Fighting for a shot at its first NCAA tournament since the infamous Dunk City run in 2013. The FGCU men’s basketball team traveled to Jacksonville to face the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season champion UNF in the semifinal game of the A-Sun tournament.
The No. 4 Eagles went into UNF arena and dominated the No.1 Ospreys on their home court, silencing a hostile crowd with a victory 89-56 over the Ospreys.
TEAM OF THE NIGHT / Dunk City / FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY !
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 4, 2016
The Eagles powered past a UNF team that was not only the No. 1 team in the conference, but a team that had only lost one home game all season, going 14-1 before the blowout loss to FGCU.
FGCU and UNF split its season series, with UNF defeating the Eagles in Game 1 at UNF arena, 82-76, and FGCU defeated the Osprey in Game 2 at Alico Arena.
The Eagles had four players in double digits, propelling them to their biggest win against a No. 1 seed in program history.
To open the game, UNF led the way. At 11:26, UNF held a nine-point advantage. This would be the biggest, and only, lead the Ospreys would hold for the night. With seven minutes remaining in the first half, FGCU had cut the lead to three.
Filip Cvjeticanin hit a three to tie the game, followed by a shot from the field by Zach Johnson to take the lead — a lead that would seal the team’s win for the night.
By the half, FGCU had run away with the lead. The score sat at 45-31 while the teams reviewed their strategies. These weren’t the same Eagles the Ospreys had been scouting all season.
In the first half, FGCU shot 54.5 percent from the field and outrebounded UNF 21-13. The scrappy Eagles defense allowed a team that averaged over 80 points per game to shoot only 37 percent from the field.
For the second consecutive game, Mr. Double-Double, Marc-Eddy Norelia, recorded a double-double, finishing the night with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Norelia’s double-double against UNF marked his program-best 14th double-double of the season.
Christian Terrell has found his offense at a perfect time for the Eagles, finishing in double digits for the second consecutive game. Playing in his hometown of Jacksonville, Terrell put on a show, scoring 16 points, snatching six rebounds and tallying four assists.
Continuing his late-season dominance, Zach Johnson capped off an impressive night offensively for the Eagles, scoring 15 points and tallying one assist. Johnson has been a consistent player for FGCU in the later part of the season, ending in double digits in his last five contests.
Playing some valuable minutes for Julian DeBose, who was forced to sit out due to early foul trouble, Cvjeticanin stepped up big time for FGCU, knocking down three shots from long range, ending the night with 11 points and two rebounds. Cvjeticanin is the only player remaining on the team from the Dunk City run back in 2013, and he played a role in bringing his team closer to the Big Dance.
After a shell-shocking dominant first half, FGCU did not take its foot off the gas.
It came out just as poised on defense as it was in the first half, closing down shooters and not allowing UNF’s offense to settle for easy shots.
Offensively, the Eagles exploited the Ospreys’ defense, dominating on the offensive glass and in the paint. With 15:33 left to go in the game, after a Norelia jumper, the Eagles had a comfortable lead, 59-33.
Any person in UNF Arena could tell you that FGCU simply wanted it more. The Ospreys gave up easy buckets all through the second half and showed no determination to defeat this FGCU team.
The Eagles’ offense was just too much to handle for a stunned UNF defense, finding open lanes and teammates for dunks and three-pointers that had the FGCU bench going wild.
The Ospreys eventually just threw in the towel when UNF coach Matt Driscoll benched his starters with a significant amount of time left in the game, when his side went down 75-48.
The Eagles would lead by 35 with 1:25 left to go. The reserves would see the court for the Eagles, as they powered their way to the final of the A-Sun tournament with a 89-56 victory.
After shooting an already impressive 54.5 percent from the field, the Eagles improved their percentage from the field to 58.8 percent. After scoring 16 points in the paint in the first half, FGCU scored an additional 26 points, scoring a total of 42 points in the paint.
The Ospreys offense couldn’t find an answer for the Eagles’ electric defense, shooting worse in the second half than they did in the first at 24 percent from the field.
Antravious Simmons and Norelia were a task too big for UNF on the boards, allowing FGCU to grab 18 offensive rebounds and score 20 second-chance points.
FGCU will host No. 7 Stetson for the Atlantic Sun Championship game on Sunday, March 6 at Alico Arena in Fort Myers.
All hope is not lost for UNF.
If FGCU loses Sunday evening, Stetson will still not be able to move forward in the NCAA tournament. Before the 2015-16 season began, the Hatters received national sanctions after missing the NCAA academic performance rating by 1 point. The sanctions included a ban from the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
If the Hatters win the A-Sun Conference Tournament, the NCAA bid will be awarded to the regular-season champion, UNF.