2/23/2014 | Alico Arena (Fort Myers, FL.) | Attendance: 4458
|Stats at a Glance||KSU||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.522
DUNK CITY, Fla. – Jamail Jones scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double to give a much-needed lift to the FGCU men’s basketball team (19-10, 13-3 Atlantic Sun Conference) as the Eagles claimed a 78-68 win Sunday afternoon at Alico Arena over Kennesaw State (6-23, 3-13 A-Sun) on Senior Day for Chase Fieler.
Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy) tallied 15 points and grabbed eight of his rebounds in the first half as the Marquette transfer has now scored in double figures four straight games for the first time in his career. Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) finished with 18 points – including two pivotal 3-pointers back-to-back late in the second half – while also passing out a team-high six assists to move the junior’s career total to 578.
Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) set FGCU’s all-time steals record as he recorded a season-high-tying five pilfers and now has 198 for his career, surpassing the mark of 194 held by Bryan Crislip. The junior added 14 points and four assists as he moved within 50 points of breaking the program’s all-time scoring record of 1,367 by Ryan Hopkins.
Playing in his final regular-season home game, Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and FGCU’s only two blocks of the afternoon. Despite several second-half surges by Kennesaw State, FGCU never trailed – and was tied just once – as the Eagles played both games against the Owls this year without trailing for a single second.
“After a good start, for most of the game I thought Kennesaw were the aggressors and it shows in our defensive stats,” FGCU head coach Joe Dooley said. “But I’m glad we were able to get a win on Senior Day for Chase because he deserves it. There’s a lot of things I know that we can clean up. I thought that Jamail – especially in the first half – carried us and Bernard got us going in the second half, but I’m very disappointed with the defensive effort in the second half.”
In that second half, KSU shot 55.6 percent (15-27) from the floor against an FGCU team which entered as the best field-goal-percentage defense in league games, holding the opposition below 40 percent through the first 15 A-Sun contests. The Owls hit 12 3-pointers and shot 52.2 percent (12-23) from beyond the arc, with the dozen triples being tied for the second most the Eagles have surrendered this year.
Both teams started slow, but FGCU eventually garnered leads of 7-0 and 12-2, fueled by Jones. The junior – who also added a career-high-tying four assists – recorded eight of FGCU’s first dozen points and added six rebounds in the first six minutes of the contest. The edge expanded to as much as much 14, 22-8, at the 8:29 mark after a Jones fastbreak lay-in. However, the Owls mounted a run and cut their deficit to as little as five before – in fitting fashion – Jones hit a floater to give the Eagles a 36-29 lead heading into the half.
Jones broke his previous career high of 17 on a 3 in front of the FGCU bench in the early stages of the second half and then added a pair of free throws to put the Eagles up nine, 46-37, with 15:40 remaining. But KSU answered, and following an 11-2 run the Owls had pulled even for the time all game, 48-48, with less than 13 minutes showing.
FGCU responded with a 10-2 run to go up 58-50, but KSU rebutted with a 7-2 stretch to pull back within three, 60-57, at the 8:25 mark. A quick 7-0 FGCU spurt in 45 seconds coming out of the under-8 media timeout looked to be the final blow for the Owls, but after going back down 10, 67-57, they got the deficit back to four, 72-68, with 4 minutes remaining.
But that’s when Comer stepped up and drilled consecutive 3-pointers from nearly the same spot at the top of the arc, pushing FGCU ahead by 10 again, 78-68. The Eagles finally got the stops they needed down the stretch, holding KSU without a point in the final 4:12 of the afternoon to now stand at 13-1 on the year inside Alico. Dating back to last year, FGCU has won 19 of its past 20 home games, and boasts a 28-2 record at The Nest since the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
Delbert Love led Kennesaw State with 22 points, including six 3-pointers. Myles Hamilton added 12 for the Owls, while Nate Rucker tallied 10 to round out the trio of double-figure scorers.
With the win, FGCU moves its record to 60-59 all-time in the A-Sun, the first time its all-time conference record has been above .500 since the program’s initial D-I season in 2007-08. The last time the Eagles had an all-time A-Sun record above .500 was when they were 4-3 following an 87-80 road win at then-member Gardner-Webb on Jan. 26, 2008.
FGCU and Mercer remain tied for first place with two regular-season games remaining. If both teams win out, the first tiebreaker will be record against the third-place team, which will be either USC Upstate or ETSU. Both teams are currently tied for third at 10-7 and will face each other on Upstate’s home court Friday night. If FGCU and Mercer both win their final two games and Upstate defeats ETSU, the Eagles will clinch the No. 1 seed and have home-court advantage throughout the A-Sun Tournament. If the same scenario plays out but ETSU defeats Upstate, Mercer will earn the No. 1 seed.
FGCU knew entering the game it could only finish first or second in the league standings. The Eagles have guaranteed themselves the right to host a quarterfinal tournament game on Tuesday, Mar. 4, at 7 p.m. With a win, the Green and Blue would also host a semifinal matchup on Thursday, Mar. 6, at either 6:30 or 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for those games, including a potential championship game on Sunday, Mar. 9, will be available starting at 9 a.m. Monday at the Alico Arena Ticket Office or over the phone at 239-590-7145. Students can also pick up their free tickets beginning Monday.
The Eagles now take to the road for their final two regular-season games next week at Lipscomb (13-14, 8-8 A-Sun) on Thursday, Feb. 27, and at Northern Kentucky (8-20, 4-12 A-Sun) on Saturday, Mar. 1. The game against the Bisons in Nashville is set to tip at 6 p.m. local time (7 p.m. Eastern) on ESPN3, while the contest against the Norse is scheduled for a 1 p.m. tip.
GAME NOTES: Eric McKnight added eight rebounds to aid in FGCU’s 43-31 edge on the glass, including a 16-4 advantage on the offensive boards – a stark contrast to the first time the two met when KSU had a 15-7 lead in that category … for the game FGCU shot 40.6 percent from the field (26-64) … FGCU turned 16 KSU turnovers into 20 points … the Eagles had 13 second-chance points compared with five for the Owls.
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.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the men’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_MBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUMBB.