Fast Starts Leads VCU to 80-57 Win Over FGCU in Season Opener
Friday, November 09, 2012 | by Patrick Pierson (@Pierson_SID)
Thompson scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half at VCU.
Thompson scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half at VCU.
Florida Gulf Coast (0-1)
VCU (1-0)
11/9/2012 | Richmond, Va. (Siegel Center) | Attendance: 7693
Florida Gulf Coast203757
Stats at a GlanceFGCUVCU
FG Percentage.455 (20-44) .438 (32-73)
3P FG Percentage.308 (4-13) .267 (8-30)
FT Percentage.619 (13-21) .571 (8-14)
Offensive Rebounds822
Defensive Rebounds2121
Total Rebounds2943
Bench Points1036
Statistical LeadersFGCUVCU
PointsTHOMPSON - 21
ReboundsTHOMPSON - 8
AssistsCOMER - 5
StealsTHOMPSON - 3
WEBER - 10
BlocksMCKNIGHT - 2

RICHMOND, Va. – Despite a game-high 21 points from sophomore Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) and 16 more from senior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS), the FGCU men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a big halftime deficit during its 80-57 season-opening loss to VCU at Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center.

Sitting just outside the top 25 at No. 27 in both national polls, the Rams forced FGCU into 16 first half turnovers that led to 22 points en route to opening a 46-20 halftime lead. The Eagles battled back in the second half, out-scoring VCU, 37-34, but it wasn’t enough as the Rams picked up their 26th straight win when scoring 65+ points.

Thompson and Brown were major factors in FGCU’s second half turnaround, combining for 27 of the team’s 37 points. An Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen team selection a year ago, Thompson’s third career 20-point game came on 8-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-6 from three, and featured a team-high eight rebounds and three steals.

The nation’s leader in steals in 2011-12, VCU lived up to that billing with 20 thefts on the night out of FGCU’s 26 turnovers. Ultra-athletic and A-10 Preseason All-Defensive team choice sophomore Briante Weber battled foul trouble and played just 18 minutes, but came away with a double-double of 13 points and 10 steals. For the game, the Rams’ non-stop full court pressure defense led to a 33-15 edge in points off turnovers and 20-8 edge in fast break points.

“Give VCU a lot of credit. That style is very difficult to prepare for and they do a great job of executing and maintaining it for 40 minutes,” said FGCU head coach Andy Enfield. “I was very unhappy with our performance in the first half, but very proud of how responded to win the second half.”

Led by its 67 percent (12-18) performance in the second half, FGCU shot a respectable 46 percent (20-44) for the game compared to a 44 percent clip (32-73) by the Rams. The Eagles got the free throw line seven more times (21-14) than VCU.

After redshirt sophomore Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy/Iowa State) converted a well-timed lob from sophomore point guard Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) to make it 11-10 in favor of VCU, the Rams took over the game with a 9-0 run that forced FGCU into a timeout with 10:15 left in the first half.

The timeout didn’t slow down the Rams, as they expanded the game-changing run to 18-2 in less than two minutes to more than double-up FGCU, at 29-12. VCU’s lead reached as high as 27, 46-19, with less than a minute to play in the first half.

FGCU shook off its first half performance and was able to out-score the Rams in the second half thanks to Thompson and Brown, who scored 17 of the team’s last 18 points to close the game, including the final 12.

The reigning A-Sun assists leader, Comer had a game-high five helpers and five points. McKnight, who played in his first game in the Green and Blue after transferring in from Iowa State, had five points, five rebounds in two blocks in 24 minutes.

Four different players reached double figures for VCU, led by sophomore Treveon Graham’s 15 points, while three other players had at least eight points. Thanks to its 20 steals and 22 offensive rebounds, the Rams were able to take 29 more shots (73-44) than the Eagles.

FGCU will be back in action on Tuesday, Nov. 13 when it opens its home schedule against in-state foe and ACC member Miami at Alico Arena. The Hurricanes are also receiving votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls. Tickets for the 7:05 p.m. tip and expected first-ever men’s basketball sellout in Alico Arena are going fast, so call 239-590-7145 to get your seats.