SMU Rallies to Hand FGCU Heartbreaking Loss, 65-64
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||SMU|
|FG Percentage||.393 (22-56)||.426 (20-47)|
|3P FG Percentage||.500 (10-20)||.348 (8-23)|
|FT Percentage||.833 (10-12)||.739 (17-23)|
DALLAS, Texas – Sophomore Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) poured in a game-high 20 points and FGCU made 10 three-pointers as a team, but it wasn’t enough, as its two game-winning attempts in the final seconds came up short in a heartbreaking 65-54 loss at Conference USA foe SMU on Saturday afternoon at Moody Coliseum.
After taking a 35-30 leading into the locker room, FGCU opened the second half on a 14-2 run that gave the visitors the biggest lead of the game (17), 49-32, with 15:28 on the clock. Four SMU turnovers in its first seven possessions fueled the spurt that featured a breakaway dunk by freshman Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) and classmate Dante Holmes (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances/Oldsmar Christian).
As quickly as the Eagles built the lead, the Mustangs climbed back into the game, responding to FGCU’s surge to open the second half with a 16-2 run of their own to cut deficit to 51-48 with just under nine minutes to play.
The first 37 minutes of the game featured just two lead changes, but there were three over the final three minutes with the last coming on a breakaway layup by SMU’s Ryan Manuel off an FGCU turnover with 21 seconds left that gave the Mustangs a 65-54 lead.
After calling a timeout, FGCU’s initial play was stopped, as Thompson had to take a fade away jumper from the top of the key that missed short. The miss caromed right to Varidel outside the right block where his put-back was to strong off the glass and glanced off the front of the rim as time expired.
The one-point loss is the second of the season for the Eagles, who dropped a 73-72 decision in the season-opener at nearby TCU just over a week ago. FGCU is now 2-2 on the young season, while SMU also evened its record at 2-2.
Varidel accounted for six of FGCU’s 10 three-pointers, knocking down 6-of-7 from long range for 20 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Thompson was the only other Eagle in double figures with 11 points, a game-high eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Varidel and Thompson combined for 23 of FGCU’s 35 points in the first half.
Coming in as the Atlantic Sun’s second-best three-point shooting team, FGCU went 10-of-20 from beyond the arc, but just 12-of-46 inside it. The Green and Blue committed a season-low 13 turnovers, but were hurt by a season-low 39.3 field goal percentage (22-56).
SMU was led by senior sharpshooter Robert Nyakundi, who led three players in double figures with 18 points. A preseason All-Conference USA choice, Nyakundi knocked down 4-of-6 from three-point land and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Freshman Jalen Jones provided 15 points off the bench.
Trailing 5-2, FGCU quickly took its first lead of the game on a 10-0 run that was capped by the first of Varidel’s four three-pointers in the opening half. Thompson started things with a three of his own, as the Eagles led 12-5 at the 13:24 mark.
FGCU rode the hot-shooting of Varidel through the rest of the first half, going 7-of-10 from long range as a team in the opening 20 minutes to hold a 35-30 lead at the break. The final three came off the fingertips of junior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) as time expired, while Varidel was a perfect 4-for-4 en route to 14 points.
For the fourth straight game the Eagles won the battle of the boards, this time holding a slim 34-33 edge. Brown led the way with three offensive rebounds among his five boards, fighting off first half foul trouble to also score nine points. Freshman Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) had six points and a game-high four steals.
SMU shot 43 percent (20-47) from the field and 35 percent from three (8-23), but took 11 more attempts than FGCU at the free throw line resulting in seven more points.
FGCU will be back in action on Tuesday night when it heads across the state to take on ACC foe Miami at the BankUnited Center. Gametime is slated for 7 p.m. and the third meeting between the two teams can be seen live on Fox Sports South.
FGCU’s two losses on the season have come by a combined two points … the Eagles have won the battle on the glass in all four games, grabbing double figure offensive caroms in the last three contests …. Sophomore Christophe Varidel’s six three-pointers equaled a career-high … Varidel is 11-of-21 from beyond the arc this season … Varidel’s 20 points marked the third time this season FGCU’s leading scorer has come from the bench … FGCU has gotten 26 or more points off the bench in all four games … Freshman Bernard Thompson has reached double figures in all four games.
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