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Foul Trouble Plagues @FGCU_MBB In Opening-Round NIT Loss At Florida State
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||FS|
|FG Percentage||.396 (21-53)||.422 (19-45)|
|3P FG Percentage||.316 (6-19)||.444 (4-9)|
|FT Percentage||.714 (5-7)||.571 (16-28)|
McKNIGHT - 6
White - 1
Bojanovsky - 1
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Playing in its first NIT game in program history, the No. 8-seeded FGCU men’s basketball team (22-13) couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers and a vast disparity at the free-throw line as the Eagles fell to host and No. 1-seeded Florida State (20-13) by a slim 58-53 margin Tuesday night at the Tucker Center.
FGCU was led by Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) with 16 points, while Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) finished as the lone other Green and Blue member in double-figure scoring with 11. Playing in his final collegiate game, lone senior Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) scored 8 points and grabbed two rebounds in 18 foul-plagued minutes.
Foul trouble was a major storyline throughout as Fieler – FGCU’s second-leading scorer at 14.1 per game – picked up his second foul just six minutes into the game and sat for the final 14 minutes of the first half. Thompson – FGCU’s leading scorer at 15.1 per game – picked up his second foul and sat the final five minutes of the half. Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) – FGCU’s third-leading scorer at 13.9 per game – was whistled for his second foul late in the first half as well.
Despite all the foul trouble, FGCU battled to only trail by five at the half, 24-19, courtesy in large part to Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) who netted eight points. The smaller Eagles also fought to a 15-14 advantage on the glass, but the Seminoles turned 13 first-half turnovers by FGCU into 12 second-chance points (50 percent of their first-half scoring).
With Thompson and Fieler back in the lineup, FGCU started the second half on a 6-0 run to take a 25-24 lead. The advantage swelled to as much as six, 34-28, after a Thompson 3-pointer forced FSU into a timeout. The Thompson 3 marked the third straight triple from FGCU as Fieler and Thompson combined to score the first 15 points of the second half.
However, minutes later, Fieler was called for his fourth foul and was forced to the bench at the 10:07 mark with the Eagles up two, 41-39. Not even a minute later, 6-9 Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy/Iowa State) picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. In total, FGCU had its three most important post threats – including 6-10 Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech) who injured his knee early in the half – on the bench in a two-point game with less than 10 minutes remaining.
FSU immediately took advantage to go from down two to up three before FGCU responded and eventually reclaimed a 49-48 edge on a Jones’ jumper at the 5:22 mark. However, that would be the last lead FGCU had. The Eagles were down three, 56-53, with the ball and less than a minute to play when Thompson drove to the hoop and missed a layup while appearing to be fouled, but no whistle came. FSU went back to the line and hit one-of-two to put the game out of reach and end FGCU’s second-most successful Division-I season.
In total, Florida State was whistled for half as many fouls as FGCU, 26-13, and attempted four times as many free throws, 28-7. McKnight fouled out, while Comer, Fieler and Jones all had four fouls; no one on FSU had more than two fouls. The Seminoles were considered one of the top-4 teams, if not the top team, which missed out on the NCAA Tournament. FSU entered the contest with an RPI of 54, one spot better than NC State, which received an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys and I hate to see the season end,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “I’m proud of the development of our guys throughout the year, and I’m looking forward to the future as I think we have some high-character guys.”
“Think about the journey he’s had,” Dooley continued when asked about Fieler. “Starting with his freshman year through his sophomore year and then last year as a junior he gets to play in the Sweet Sixteen and this year as a senior win the program’s first league championship. It’s nice to see great kids get rewarded.”
Fieler finishes his career in an FGCU uniform as one of the most decorated players in program history. His first points of the night – a 3-pointer from the wing – propelled him over 1,300 for his career as he ends his time in Fort Myers with 1,306 points – one of only three players all-time with at least 1,300. He also is the only player in program history with 600 rebounds, and Fieler now has an impressive 714 caroms for his tenure.
“FGCU basketball has been my life for the last four years,” an emotional Fieler said after the game. “These guys are my family. Looking back at it, I went through a lot of things I didn’t think I was going to experience when I first came here. The school has done way more for me than I have for it. I love FGCU and I’m going to be watching next year no matter where I am. They’re going to be doing great things – we have the best players in the league and the best coach in the league. They’ll be right back in the NCAA Tournament next year.”
One of those key returners is junior Comer, who broke FGCU’s career assist record of 606 with three helpers on the night to move his total to 609 – the third-most in the history of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
For the game FGCU shot 39.6 percent (21-53) from the floor, compared with 42.2 percent (19-45) for the Seminoles. The much larger ‘Noles, who have six players 6-9 or taller – including three 7-footers, only out-rebounded FGCU by one, 33-32. By comparison, the Eagles only have three players at 6-9 or taller, and no 7-footers.
FGCU returns four starters and six other letterwinners for 2014-15. The Eagles will also add four high-major transfers who are sitting out, welcome redshirt freshman Logan Hovey and three newcomers – including two true freshmen – to bolster an already deep roster.
GAME NOTES: After turning the ball over 16 times in the first 23 minutes of the game, the Eagles only had three over the final 17 minutes … McKnight finished with six rebounds, a total matched by Jones … the game was FGCU’s 12 TV appearance and seventh on national TV as the contest was broadcast on ESPN2 … the 22 wins are the second-most in D-I history … Hicks will be further evaluated upon the team’s return to Fort Myers on Wednesday.