Men's basketball: FGCU 78, Kennesaw State 68
FGCU 78, KENNESAW STATE 68
KENNESAW ST. (6-23)
Love 7-17 2-3 22, Morena 3-8 0-0 8, Hamilton 5-7 0-2 12, Coleman 3-6 0-0 7, Kouassi 2-2 0-0 4, Pruitt 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Rucker 5-9 0-1 10, Wozniak 2-4 0-0 5, Osemhen 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 2-6 68.
FLORIDA GULF COAST (19-10)
Comer 7-13 2-4 18, Thompson 3-9 6-9 14, Jones 7-14 6-8 22, McKnight 1-6 1-4 3, Fieler 5-13 2-4 12, Hicks 1-5 0-0 2, Cvjeticanin 1-2 2-2 5, Graf 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-64 19-31 78.
Halftime—FGCU 36-29. 3-Point Goals—Kennesaw St. 12-23 (Love 6-10, Morena 2-3, Hamilton 2-4, Wozniak 1-3, Coleman 1-3), FGCU 7-19 (Comer 2-3, Thompson 2-6, Jones 2-6, Cvjeticanin 1-1, Fieler 0-3). Fouled Out—Morena. Rebounds—Kennesaw St. 31 (Coleman 8), FGCU 43 (Jones 12). Assists—Kennesaw St. 20 (Coleman 7), FGCU 17 (Comer 6). Total Fouls—Kennesaw St. 24, FGCU 13. A—4,458.
After an emotional win against Mercer Friday night, the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team was primed for a letdown.
Luckily, the Eagles got another huge performance by junior Jamail Jones, holding off Kennesaw State’s upset bid for a 78-68 victory Sunday afternoon.
FGCU (19-10, 13-3) remains in a first-place tie with Mercer for the Atlantic Sun lead after the Bears (22-7, 13-3) took care of Stetson, 73-53.
Sunday was Senior Day, and Chase Fieler, an all-conference forward, was honored as the lone senior before the tip. Several long-distance friends were in the stands and his parents, Karl and Jenny, and sister, Ryan, joined him for a midcourt presentation.
Fieler had eight points and 12 rebounds. Although he’ll play at least one more home game — and perhaps three — in the A-Sun tourney in Alico Arena, he was emotional.
“I knew it was coming, but it didn’t really hit home until I was walking out there with my parents,” Fieler said.
Should the defending A-Sun tournament champion Eagles and Mercer remain tied at the end of the season, the tiebreaker falls to how each fared against the third-place team.
That situation also is knotted as things didn’t go the Eagles’ way Friday night, when Jacksonville beat USC Upstate and East Tennessee State knocked off North Florida, leaving the Spartans and Buccaneers tied for third at 10-7. FGCU owns the tiebreaker against Upstate thanks to its season sweep. Ditto for Mercer against ETSU.
At stake is homecourt advantage throughout the A-Sun tournament. That’s huge in a one-bid conference.
FGCU closes the regular season at Lipscomb (8-8) on Thursday and at Northern Kentucky (4-12) on Sunday. Mercer, which is unbeaten at home, hosts North Florida (8-8) on Thursday and Jacksonville (7-9) on Saturday.
As for Sunday’s game, the Eagles were a bit sluggish after Friday night’s emotional, ESPNU-televised 75-61 win against the Bears, but not from the start against Kennesaw State (6-23, 3-13). They broke to leads of 12-2 and 22-8, but led just 36-29 at intermission against the fired-up Owls, who buried 12 of 23 3-point attempts (52.2 percent).
“After a good start, I thought Kennesaw was the aggressor,” FGCU first-year coach Joe Dooley said. “I’m glad we could get a win on Senior Day for Chase, because he deserves it. There’s a lot of things we can clean up. I’m very disappointed with our defensive effort in the second half.”
Things got crazy in the second half, as KSU actually caught up with FGCU, 48-48, on Delbert Love’s fifth 3-pointer of the night (he finished 6 of 10 behind the arc to lead the Owls with 22 points). Finally, the fans and the Eagles got back into it, as a 12-2 run gave the Eagles a 60-50 lead. KSU responded, slicing to 69-65 on a Love bucket with 5:20 left.
The Eagles, though, finished with a 9-3 run thanks to two straight 3s by point guard Brett Comer, who had 18 points and six assists, and an old-fashioned Fieler three-point play.
Fieler said the Eagles didn’t panic.
“We have enough talent that if we really start playing defense — and we showed spurts of it at the end — and play the way we can, we’ll win every game,” Fieler said. “I didn’t think we were going to lose.”
If not for another slam-dunk game by Jones, the Eagles might not have overcome the Owls. After scoring 11 points and pulling down 13 rebounds against Mercer for his first-ever double-double, the transfer from Marquette racked up 22 points and 12 rebounds against KSU.
“Coach has always been motivating and pushing me,” Jones said. “I just kept doing what I do every day, coming into practice working hard. It’s showing now.”
As Fieler left the floor, the fans had a chant for him.
“Thank you, Fieler! Thank you, Fieler!”