Florida Gulf Coast steals the show in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Well over an hour after the biggest win in their school’s short history, three Florida Gulf Coast players walked through a section of fans in the Wells Fargo Center and they all got plenty of high-fives as the cheering got louder.
And it wasn’t even an area filled with their fans.
The Eagles blasted onto college basketball’s radar and onto the list of the biggest bracket busters with a 78-68 victory over second-seeded Georgetown on Friday night in the second round of the South Regional.
It wasn’t that it was a 15 seed beating a 2 – that had happened six times before in NCAA tournament history.
It was that a school which joined Division I only six years ago – and opened its doors in 1997 – beat one of the sport’s higher-profile programs and did it convincingly.
“It’s very exciting to be in the position that we’re in right now,” said Sherwood Brown, who led the Eagles with 24 points. “We worked really, really hard to be where we’re at. No one has given us anything. It just means that much more that we actually had to go out there and earn it and take what we felt was ours.”
The Eagles (25-10) move on to a third-round matchup against seventh-seeded San Diego State, which beat Oklahoma 70-55 on Friday.
In the Midwest Regional games played in Philadelphia on Friday, second-seeded Duke beat Albany 73-61, seventh-seeded Creighton defeated Cincinnati 67-63 and No. 8 seed San Diego State beat Oklahoma 70-55.
Jamaal Franklin scored 21 points and James Rahon had 17 for SDSU (23-10), which earned its third NCAA tournament victory.
Romero Osby scored 22 points for the Sooners (20-12).
Seth Curry scored 26 points and Mason Plumlee had 23 for the Blue Devils (28-5), who shot 58.7 percent (27 of 46), just off their season-beat 60.8 percent against Florida State.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski extended his all-time lead with his 80th career victory in the tournament that he has won four times.
Jacob Iati had 15 points for Albany (24-11).
Doug McDermott had 27 points and 11 rebounds and Gregory Echenique scored 13 points for the Bluejays (28-7), who won their NCAA tournament opener for the second straight year.
Sean Kilpatrick had 19 points for the Bearcats (22-12).
FGCU coach Andy Enfield became an instant hero, posing after the game for as many pictures with fans as his wife, Amanda Marcum, used to in her career as a super model.
Not bad for a state university built on donated land in Fort Myers, not far from Naples. The school’s first student was admitted just 16 years ago and even joined the ribbon-cutting ceremony on the opening day of class.
“We have a beautiful arena, we have an unbelievable campus and the excitement from our surrounding community has just been terrific,” Enfield said. “We’re trying to get younger people involved because if you’ve ever been to Naples you have a lot of retirees. They’re our season ticket base.”
Not for much longer.
The Eagles will be the hottest thing in this tournament until at least Sunday.
“We’re going to come out Sunday and compete,” Enfield said. “And if we play like we did tonight, we’ll win the game.”
The Eagles used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas and then held on in the final minute by making six of 10 free throws in the final minute.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. We played a very tough team in Georgetown. They have great players. They’re a historic school,” forward Chase Fieler said. “So being a newer school it’s very exciting for us to be able to win a game like that and for the NCAA history. That’s exciting and impressive to be a part of that.”
Bernard Thompson had 23 points for Florida Gulf Coast, the champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“We decided we can play with anybody and we did,” said FGCU point guard Brett Comer, who finished with 12 points, 10 assists and just two turnovers.
Comer was part of a play late in the game that almost brought down the house, throwing an alley-oop pass from the corner that Fieler grabbed and threw down with a one-handed dunk.
“Nothing special. It’s something me and him have done this year,” Comer said. “We knew what was going to happen there. Time and place didn’t matter. I knew he’d catch it. You saw the result. The whole place went nuts and we really got the momentum from there.”
Said Fieler: “That might be the highest I’ve ever jumped. We’ll have to check the video. Brett has great vision. That was his 10th assist. He just threw it up and I had to go get it.”