FGCU Powers Past Miami, 63-51, in Front of Record Crowd in Home Opener
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | by Patrick Pierson (@Pierson_SID)
McKnight had team-highs of 14 points and 8 rebounds in his debut in front of the Green & Blue faithful. (Photo by J. Meric)
McKnight had team-highs of 14 points and 8 rebounds in his debut in front of the Green & Blue faithful. (Photo by J. Meric)
Miami (1-1)
Florida Gulf Coast (1-1)
11/13/2012 | Fort Myers, Fla. - Alico Arena | Attendance: 4552
Florida Gulf Coast323163
Stats at a GlanceUMFGCU
FG Percentage.291 (16-55) .490 (25-51)
3P FG Percentage.308 (8-26) .091 (1-11)
FT Percentage.524 (11-21) .800 (12-15)
Offensive Rebounds1410
Defensive Rebounds1830
Total Rebounds3240
Bench Points99
Statistical LeadersUMFGCU
PointsShane Larkin - 14
BROWN - 14
ReboundsReggie Johnson - 10
AssistsShane Larkin - 4
StealsTrey McKinney Jones - 2
Bishop Daniels - 2
BlocksKenny Kadji - 1
Rion Brown - 1

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a 40-14 edge in points in the paint and a 21-3 game-changing run in the middle of the first half, the FGCU men’s basketball team opened its home schedule in style with a 63-51 victory over ACC foe Miami in front of a school record 4,552 fans at Alico Arena on Tuesday night.

Trailing 15-5 just eight minutes into the contest, the Eagles turned things around by scoring 21 of the next 24 points en route to a 32-25 lead at the half and never allowed Miami to take the lead again. The win is FGCU’s second against a BCS conference program, as it evens its record at 1-1. Miami, who received nine votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, are also 1-1 on the year.

“This is a huge win for our program and I want to thank the fans for creating a terrific environment tonight,” said second-year FGCU head coach Andy Enfield. “Miami is a very good team and I thought we did the little things to come away with this win. Our ability to attack the rim and make the hustle plays was the difference in this game.”

FGCU made its living in the paint, attacking the taller Miami lineup to the tune of 40 points inside on a series of layups and six total dunks. Making his debut in front of the FGCU faithful, sophomore Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy/Iowa State) had team-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds, out-dueling Miami center Reggie Johnson, who went 2-for-8 from the field for six points.

The Eagles’ attacking style in both transition and in the half court led to a 49 percent (25-51) shooting night from the field and 22 points off turnovers. On the flipside, the Hurricanes were limited to 16 field goals compared to committing 17 turnovers and finished with a 29 percent shooting percentage (16-55).

Joining McKnight in double figures was senior Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) and sophomore Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS), who had 14 and 13 points, respectively. Brown finished 7-of-15 from the field and paired his 14 points with seven rebounds, while Thompson had nine of his 13 in the second half and had a game-high four steals.

The game also featured a matchup of rising sophomore point guards in FGCU’s Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) and Miami’s Shane Larkin. Comer’s ability to penetrate and see the floor led to a majority of the team’s six dunks, as he had eight assists and no turnovers in 29 minutes. The 2011-12 A-Sun assist leader, Comer had six points and seven rebounds. Larkin’s sharp-shooting helped the Hurricanes tie the game at 39-39 in the second half, as he finished with 14 points on 4-of-9 from long range.

Miami jumped out to a 15-5 lead before the second media timeout, draining a trio of three-pointers to force FGCU to call a timeout with 12:15 left on the clock.

Enfield’s timeout did the trick, as FGCU responded with a game-changing 21-2 run that absorbed 8:44 off the clock and brought the large contingent of students to their feet and into a frenzy. Defense fueled the run, as Miami missed all 11 of its shots during the stretch and committed four turnovers. Transition led to a large portion of FGCU’s 21 points, as the Eagles had 18 points in the paint, including eight from Brown. In all, the Green and Blue finished the first half on a 27-10 run to take a 32-25 lead into the locker room. FGCU out-scored the Hurricanes 22-4 in the paint over the opening 20 minutes, limiting them to 8-of-30 shooting from the field (27 percent).

The opening seven minutes of the second half belonged to Miami, as it rode the hot-shooting of Larkin to double-up the Eagles 14-7 to tie the game at 39-39. Larkin’s quick release led to back-to-back threes with the last one coming at 13:29 to tie the game.

Faced with the first tie score since the eight-minute mark of the first half, the Eagles limited Miami to just three points over the next five-minutes to build a 49-42 edge keyed by a three-pointer by sophomore Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) that pushed the lead to four and an old-fashion three-point play by Thompson.

The Hurricanes kept it a two-possession game (51-46) with 7:08 remaining until an 8-0 FGCU run expanded the lead to its largest to that point (13) and put the game out of reach. The game-clinching run was capped by an alley-oop from Comer to McKnight with 3:51 left.

Junior Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) added seven points with all three field goals coming on dunks. Freshman back-up point guard Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry HS) spelled Comer for 11 minutes in the game and also didn’t commit a turnover.

FGCU will look to build-off its historic win on Thursday night when it hosts Ave Maria at Alico Arena. Tip is slated for 7:05 p.m.

FGCU is the first A-Sun team since 2010-11 to defeat an ACC squad when Kennesaw State beat Georgia Tech and Stetson took down Wake Forest … the 25 first half points allowed are the lowest since limiting UNF to 22 on Feb. 26, 2011 … the Eagles are 8-3 all-time in home openers and have won three straight … FGCU now has two wins over BCS conference teams and is 1-4 against the ACC … McKnight’s 14 points came in 21 foul-plagued minutes … Brown’s 14 points were his 32nd career double figure game … Thompson’s four steals equaled a career-high, as he now has a theft in 30 of 34 career games … Thompson has reached double figures 24 times in his career … Comer has had eight or more assists in a game seven times.