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Eagles Outlast Spartans in A-Sun Opener, 86-82
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Reed Baker scored a career-high 27 points to lead the FGCU men's basketball team to an 86-82 victory at USC Upstate, giving the Eagles their second consecutive win. This marks the second time in three years that the Eagles have won their conference opener.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said FGCU head coach Dave Blaza.” We came out played the way we were supposed to, and we had some guys really step up for us tonight.”
Freshman Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla.) added 21 points for the Eagles (2-6, 1-0 A-Sun) and reigning A-Sun Player of the Week Reggie Chambers (Miramar, Fla.) scored 16 points in 19 minutes. Josh Chavis scored a game-high 34 points for the Spartans (1-7, 1-1), including 10 three-pointers that set an Upstate record.
The Eagles used a 13-2 run midway through the first half to take the 20-12 lead with 8:47 remaining in the half. Baker and Chambers combined for 14 of the FGCU’s first 20 points.
After the Eagles built a 14 point advantage on a layout by senior Derrick O’Neil (Moreno Valley, Calif) at the 3:05 mark, the Spartans’ Josh Chavis nailed three three-pointers and converted a pair of free throws in the final three minutes to push USC Upstate on a 17-5 run as they fought back to come within two, 41-39, at the half.
In the second half, Chavis' three-pointer at the 18:48 mark gave Upstate a 42-41 lead, its first since the 12:23 mark of the first half. There were seven more lead changes the rest of the game as the teams countered each other's shots.
Upstate opened a four-point lead, 49-45, on a Chavis 3-pointer with 16:34 to play in the game for the Spartans' biggest lead of the contest. However, Banks converted a layup and Baker nailed a three-pointer to spark a 7-0 run as FGCU took a three-point lead with 15:06 to play. The Eagles' lead grew to four points with 12:24 to play, but Upstate fought back to tie the game at 61-61 with 8:40 remaining on Chavis' eighth three-pointer of the night.
Chavis hit his record-tying ninth three-pointer to give Upstate a 64-61 lead with 7:47 to play. FGCU again answered with a 6-0 spurt with Baker converting four free throws and Banks hitting a short jumper. Banks converted a three-point play with a bucket and a free throw to start a 6-0 run that propelled the Eagles to a 74-66 lead with 2:54 to play.
With FGCU up by eight with 1:28 to play, Upstate used two three-pointers and a layup from Carter Cook to cut the deficit to three with 44 seconds to play. Chavis nailed his 10th three-pointer of the game to pull the Spartans within two, 82-80, with 24 seconds to play, but Chambers made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining and Banks converted a dunk with five seconds left as FGCU held off Upstate for the win. Banks went 8-12 from the field as he scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half.
Both teams shot well, with FGCU shooting 46.2% for the game and USC Upstate shooting 43.8%. Three-point shooting was even better, with the Eagles connecting on 9-of-17 (52.9%) three-point shots, and the Spartans making 13-of-25 (52.0%).
The Eagles stay on the road to face North Carolina Central in Durham, N.C. on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Wednesday’s game can be heard live on ESPN 770 AM. FGCU owns a 1-0 record in the all-time series against NCCU, FGCU defeated NCCU 66-58 back on Nov. 20, 2008.