College basketball: FGCU men look to get in A-Sun title game again; Stetson stands in the way

Scott McIntyre/Staff
FGCU head coach Andy Enfield draws up a play during their game against University of North Florida on the first day of the Atlantic Sun Basketball Championship at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. on Wednesday.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff FGCU head coach Andy Enfield draws up a play during their game against University of North Florida on the first day of the Atlantic Sun Basketball Championship at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. on Wednesday.

MACON, Ga. — The Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team cheerfully loaded its charter bus after watching top-seeded Mercer rout Lipscomb late Wednesday night in the Atlantic Sun tournament.

The Eagles wanted another long look at what they hope is to come.

Second-seeded FGCU (22-10) — which shot down No. 7 North Florida, 73-63, earlier Wednesday — figures to face Mercer (22-10) on its home floor in Saturday’s noon title game. That’s if things play out as expected.

FGCU must shoot down third-seeded Stetson (15-15) at 8 tonight in a semifinal game. At stake is the A-Sun’s lone NCAA tourney berth. In its sixth season of Division I play and second of tournament eligibility, FGCU is shooting for inclusion in its first NCAA bracket. Last year, the Eagles fell to Belmont in the final.

Mercer plays No. 5 USC Upstate today at 5:30 p.m.

While FGCU had the day off, the Hatters thumped No. 6 East Tennessee State, 67-46, Thursday afternoon. The Eagles, of course, were watching.

The top-two A-Sun scoring teams, FGCU and Stetson split this season, with both teams winning at home. The Eagles won by 31 points on Jan. 25 and the Hatters by nine Feb. 22.

“Stetson is one of the top offensive teams in the conference the last two years and one of the top 3-point shooting teams,” FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. “

Enfield said Stetson likes to surround its 6-foot-9 all-conference center, Adam Pegg, with four shooters on the perimeter and either shoot 3s or get him layups.

“We have to finish better around the rim and make a few more shots,” Enfield said. “1We forced 23 turnovers and took 21 more shots than they did, yet only made two more field goals (in the loss in DeLand). We have to do better than that.”

FGCU got off to a slow start Wednesday against North Florida. The Eagles, always looking to push, often outran themselves and led by only two at the half. FGCU got it together in the second half, scoring 44 points and owning the paint.

“I think with our talent and the way we played (Wednesday), we can beat anybody,” FGCU junior forward Chase Fieler said.

Stetson separated from ETSU with a mid-second half 10-0 run, then coasted. The Hatters know quick and athletic FGCU — which features A-Sun Player of the Year

Sherwood Brown and A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Bernard Thompson — will be a different deal.

“I don’t like a whole lot of our matchups with them,” Stetson coach Casey Alexander said. “They have dynamic players at both ends and we need to play well to be able to compete.”

Stetson junior forward Willie Green nodded.

“I feel like they are a team that builds off energy and momentum,” Green said. “We need to limit that on both ends to have a chance to beat them.”

For Enfield, this all comes down to his players.

“It’s really up to them,” Enfield said. “I told them that going into the tournament. If we come to play, we’ve got a shot. We’ll be prepared and they have to go play hard.”

Friday’s game

No. 1 FGCU (22-10) vs. No. 3 Stetson (15-15)

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Hawkins Arena, Mercer University (Macon, Ga.)

TV/radio: Comcast Sports Southeast, ESPN3.com, fgcuathletics.com

Projected starters

Pos. Ht. Yr. Name PPG RPG FG%

Stetson

PG 6-1 Jr. Hunter Miller 4.2 2.3 51.2

G 6-4 Sr. Joel Naburgs 10.0 4.6 41.9

G 6-3 Fr. Chris Perez 15.3 4.3 48.6

F 6-6 Jr. Willie Green 8.4 6.4 54.9

C 6-9 Sr. Adam Pegg 15.6 5.6 53.4

FGCU

PG 6-3 So. Brett Comer 7.5 3.1 39.8

G 6-3 So. Bernard Thompson 14.2 4.1 47.6

G 6-4 Sr. Sherwood Brown 15.2 6.3 45.4

F 6-8 Jr. Chase Fieler 12.2 5.4 56.7

F 6-9 So. Eric McKnight 6.7 4.8 60.7

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