2/21/2014 | Alico Arena (Fort Myers, FL) | Attendance: 4664
|Stats at a Glance||MER||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.250
DUNK CITY, Fla. – A record standing-room-only Alico Arena crowd fueled the FGCU men’s basketball team (18-10, 12-3 Atlantic Sun Conference) to a 15-0 run midway through the second half, propelling the Eagles back into first place with a pivotal 75-61 win over Mercer (21-7, 12-3 A-Sun) Friday night in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU.
Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy) recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-best 13 rebounds as FGCU dominated the glass to the tune of a season-best +19 margin, 48-29. Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) tallied a team-high 15 points while grabbing five rebounds and passing out four assists. Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) netted 14 to finish as FGCU’s third double-figure scorer and also corralled five boards.
With the victory which evened the season series and assured FGCU a finish of no worse than second place in the A-Sun, FGCU and Mercer are now tied atop the league standings, 2½ games ahead of third-place USC Upstate (10-6) with three games remaining. If FGCU and Mercer finish the regular season tied, the first tiebreaker is record against the third-place team. The Eagles went 2-0 against Upstate, while Mercer went 1-1. Upstate has a one-game lead on ETSU (9-7), and the two teams – which each only have two games remaining – meet in Spartanburg next week in the season finale.
Both teams started slow, and Mercer held a 17-15 lead at the 7:16 mark of the first half after a Langston Hall 3-pointer. However, in typical Dunk City fashion, FGCU started a 9-0 run with a putback slam by Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech). That dunk tied the game for the last time as Mercer got its deficit to as little as one late in the half before the Eagles took a 26-23 lead into the break.
The two teams traded buckets for the first 10 minutes of the second half before the Green and Blue went on their game-changing run. With FGCU in front, 42-40, and a little more than nine minutes remaining, the Eagles rattled off 15 unanswered points, and after a Jones’ 3 at the 5:33 mark had opened up a 57-40 advantage, sending the record crowd of 4,664 into a frenzy.
“Tonight was an unbelievable atmosphere; the crowd was terrific and I appreciate them showing up and supporting the program,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “Both teams started slow, and a lot of that is contributed to the defense and a little bit of nerves. We were able to get some consecutive stops and were able to get out and run to start the second half to get us going. I thought the back court was a big key as last time (against Mercer) we shot the ball horrible (1-17 from 3-point range), but tonight we were able to shoot the ball a little bit better in the second half.”
In that dominating second half, FGCU put up 49 points and shot 59.1 percent (13-22) from the field. The +23 scoring difference from the first half (26) to the second is the largest increase in any game for FGCU this year, while the 23.4 field-goal percentage increase from the first half (35.7 percent, 10-28) is also the most from the opening 20 minutes to the second 20 minutes.
Mercer came in averaging a league-high 80.9 points per game, but FGCU held the Bears to a season-low-tying 61, 20 of which came in the final four minutes as Mercer fouled the Eagles 10 times during that stretch. Hall led the Bears with 16 points, while Ike Nwamu contributed 11 and finished as the only double-figure scorers for Mercer, which shot 34.4 percent (21-61) from the floor – 14 percent below its season average.
The victory extends FGCU’s home-court winning streak to nine in a row as the Eagles have now won 27 of their last 29 contests in the friendly confines of The Nest where they are 12-1 on the year. After Mercer won nine of the first 10 meetings between the two teams, FGCU has now claimed four of the past six meetings between the two budding rivals.
The 48 FGCU rebounds are the second most this year. Hicks grabbed eight rebounds – all of which came in the first half. Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal, moving within one pilfer of tying the all-time program record of 194 held by Bryan Crislip.
As for Jones, the Marquette transfer continued his steady play as he reached double figures in scoring for the third straight game for the first time this year. Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) came off the bench and hit a few key shots early before finishing with nine points for the night. Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) netted seven points in a support role of 18 minutes off the bench.
FGCU now returns to Alico on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 when it takes on Kennesaw State (3-12). The Eagles will honor lone senior Fieler prior to tipoff as it is his final regular-season home game. FGCU has clinched a home quarterfinal game in the A-Sun Championship on Mar. 4, and if it wins that game will host the semifinal round on Mar. 6.
GAME NOTES: It was FGCU’s ninth TV broadcast of the year and fifth national TV game … the sellout was the ninth of the year and third standing-room-only sellout in the last four games (fourth overall) … Eric McKnight scored five points and grabbed five rebounds … Kevin Boyle hit four late free throws to finish with four points … TeJai Allen scored his first A-Sun point with a free throw in the closing minute.
For Atlantic Sun Conference Championship ticket information and sales, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com.
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