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Florida Gulf Coast 72, Florida Atlantic 68

Florida Gulf Coast 72, Florida Atlantic 68

BY TIM REYNOLDS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Zach Anderson scored 21 points, Dallion Johnson added 18 and Florida Gulf Coast beat No. 7 Florida Atlantic 72-68 for the Eagles’ most significant win since their run to the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Cyris Largie scored 12 and Franco Miller Jr. finished with 10 for FGCU (6-9), which never trailed in the game’s final 34 minutes. The Eagles came into the game as 17-point underdogs and most recently needed overtime just to beat NAIA member Florida Memorial last week.

But none of that mattered on Saturday. Vladislav Goldin scored 21 points for FAU (10-3), and Johnell Davis added 17 for the Owls.

Florida Gulf Coast led by 13 in the first half, by as many as 11 in the second half and used a 7-0 run to go up 62-53 with 7:27 remaining. The Eagles took the lead with 14:13 left in the opening half on a 3-pointer by Anderson and didn’t trail again.

Goldin made a pair of free throws with 1:26 left to tie it at 68, only to have Johnson answer with a 3 on the next FGCU possession. The Owls had three chances to tie the game on the next trip down the floor — all 3-point tries, all bouncing off the rim, and it didn’t take long for police and security to start figuring out how to block students from storming the court.

It didn’t matter. The students got out there anyway.

FGCU improved to 2-13 all-time against ranked teams since fully joining Division I. The other win was against then-No. 8 Georgetown in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament when the Eagles made the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed.

The Eagles used three little bursts — 8-0, 6-0 and 7-0 — in the first half to control things, the last of those spurts putting them up 39-26 late in the half before settling for a 39-30 edge at intermission.

Florida Atlantic simply couldn’t shoot in the early going, and paid the price. The Owls were 1 for 7 from the foul line in one first-half stretch and finished the half 1 for 7 on 3-pointers. The nine-point deficit at the break was the biggest one the Owls faced in their last 29 games going back to last season; the last one larger was a 13-point hole they were in at UAB on Feb. 2.

BIG PICTURE

Florida Atlantic: The Owls outrebounded FGCU 42-30, but went 4 for 20 from 3-point range and were just 16 for 27 from the foul line.

Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles played host to Top 25 teams twice previously. Butler — then coached by Brad Stevens — was ranked No. 16 when it came into Alico Arena and won 78-66 in 2007, when FGCU was still transitioning to Division I. And the Eagles lost to then-No. 25 Southern California 78-61 in 2021 in the return of Trojans coach Andy Enfield, who led FGCU’s “Dunk City” team to the Sweet 16 in 2013.


December 30, 2023





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