12/22/2013 | Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic | Attendance: 1530
|Stats at a Glance||FAMUM||FGCU|
|3P FG Percentage||.333
LAS VEGAS – Trailing by double figures with a little less than 13 minutes remaining Sunday afternoon, the FGCU men’s basketball team (6-6) stormed back behind Brett Comer with its best stretch of basketball all year, out-scoring Florida A&M (2-10) the rest of the game, 38-18, to claim a 77-68 victory at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic in Orleans Arena.
The junior guard took over the game in the second half, putting the Eagles on his back as he matched his career high with 24 points, 18 of which came in the closing 20 minutes. Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) shot a career-best 10-10 from the free-throw line, issued a game-high five assists and added three steals as he led the Eagles in scoring for the eighth time this year.
Filip Cvjeticanin (Zagreb, Croatia/American School of Madrid) knocked down four 3-pointers and provided an exclamation mark on FGCU’s furious comeback with an and-1 dunk to finish with 15 points, while Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy) contributed a season-establishing 11 points on a career-high-tying 34 minutes played.
The Eagles shot a season-best 57.8 percent (26-45) from the field, a percentage which greatly helped to offset FGCU’s 18 turnovers which led to 18 FAMU points. However, over the final 15 minutes, the Eagles had just two turnovers which didn’t lead to any Rattler points, and FGCU actually ended up out-scoring FAMU off turnovers, 24-18.
“We dug ourselves a hole with the amount of turnovers we had, especially in the first half,” head coach Joe Dooley said of FGCU’s 14 first-half giveaways. “We shot the ball well all afternoon, and that helped keep us in the game and allowed us to make our run once we started taking care of the ball better.”
Trailing 50-39 with 12:43 remaining in the contest, Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) scored the first of his eight points on a 3-pointer to begin the stretch of great FGCU play. Graf followed with a baseline jumper, Comer added a lay-in and Cvjeticanin then knocked down a 3 to make it a one-point game, 50-49, with 9:36 left.
FAMU put a stop to the 10-0 stretch with a D’Andre Bullard jumper, but a wide open Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) massive one-handed dunk down the middle of the lane got the Eagles back within one only 11 seconds later. Then, after another defensive stand, Comer went coast-to-coast to put the Green and Blue in front, 53-52, for the first time since the 4:19 mark of the first half.
After trading baskets over the next few minutes, Comer tied the contest back up for the eighth, and final, time at 57-57 with 6:42 to play. FGCU then exploded for an 11-2 run – capped by the Cvjeticanin slam off a Comer steal – in less than two minutes to take a 68-57 advantage. The Eagles never led by less than eight the rest of the afternoon and led by as much as 12 as they earned their first win as part of the four-game classic.
Over the final 13 minutes, the Eagles turned the Rattlers over 10 times, including four in less than two minutes which came as part of the aforementioned 11-2 run.
The Eagles began the game quickly, holding a 5-1 edge and then a slim 12-9 advantage before Fieler picked up his second foul. FGCU then expanded its lead to the largest of the first half, seven, as Comer found Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS) for an alley-oop to give the Green and Blue a 20-13 edge at the 10:13 mark.
However, three consecutive 3-pointers from the Rattlers put the Tallahassee-based school back in front, 22-20, before Graf answered with a jump shot at the top of the key to tie the contest at 22-22. With Thompson and Fieler both on the bench – playing a combined nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble – FAMU took advantage of the Eagles’ miscues to take a 39-35 lead into the halftime break.
FAMU then scored the first four points of the second half off two more FGCU giveaways. The lead later swelled to 11 before the Eagles mounted their comeback.
Fieler fouled out, but not before scoring eight points and grabbing a game-high-tying seven rebounds in just 18 minutes of action. Hicks had a similar stat line with nine points – all of which came in the first half – and seven boards as well.
Jamie Adams led FAMU with 21 points, the lone Rattler in double-figure scoring, as 13 different FAMU players saw game action. Forty-nine of FAMU’s 68 points came off the bench, including 33 of its 39 in the first half. For the game the Rattlers shot 41.7 percent from the floor (25-60), but just 34.5 percent (10-29) in the second stanza.
FGCU will now play Radford – which defeated Sacred Heart, 94-78, earlier on Sunday – at 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday. There will once again be no video or TV coverage, but live stats and in-game updates on Twitter @FGCU_MBB will be available.
After sitting out the first 12 games of the season for a violation of team rules, redshirt junior Eric McKnight (Raleigh, N.C./Princeton Day Academy) is eligible to return to the FGCU lineup on Monday, potentially providing the Eagles some much-needed depth down low. The Iowa State transfer started 34 games last year, finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference with 47 blocks and averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
GAME NOTES: For the game, FGCU shot 76.9 percent (20-26) from the free-throw line, including 12-13 (92.3 percent) in the second half … redshirt junior Marcus Blake earned his first career start and grabbed three rebounds in seven minutes … FGCU out-scored FAMU in the paint, 36-30 … the lead changed 17 times … it marks the fourth time this year that Cvjeticanin has hit four or more 3-pointers.
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.
2013-14 men’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly, and only a limited amount remain. New this year are mini-plan packages for all games, with the exception of “Breakfast at the Beach,” and individual-game tickets are now on sale. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.