ARLINGTON, Texas - The clock finally struck midnight for one of the most remarkable NCAA Tournament runs in history.
The Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team lost to the Florida Gators Friday night at Cowboys Stadium 62-50 after captivating the nation with earlier huge upsets against No. 2-seeded Georgetown and 7th-seed San Diego State University.
The Eagles, making their first appearance in the Big Dance, became the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet 16 round in NCAA Tournament history. A huge media frenzy followed, including the phenomenon known as "Dunk City." FGCU's hometown of Fort Myers was renamed in homage to the Eagles' exciting style of play, throwing alley-oops seemingly at will against the likes of the Georgetown Hoyas and SDSU Aztecs.
"It's been a whirlwind week," said FGCU president Wilson Bradshaw at an alumni rally in Dallas before Friday's game. "I've done about 50 interviews this week."
Bradshaw attended the games against Georgetown and SDSU in Philadelphia as well as Friday's loss at Cowboy Stadium, where more than 40,000 fans cheered for the Eagles or Gators.
Bradshaw said he thought the publicity FGCU garnered the last couple of weeks has been priceless.
"I'd do it the same all over again. I love this school. It's all about FGCU," he said.
Hundreds of FGCU supporters traveled with the team to Dallas for the game. A select few, however, also made the trek to Philadelphia and witnessed history when FGCU became the darlings of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
"It's been surreal. I would've never expected to get where we did so fast," said Josh Leppo, an FGCU graduate. He attended all three games and spent thousands of dollars in the process, all in support of his alma mater.
"It was all worth it. The trip [to Philadelphia] was a dream," Leppo said. "We were on cloud 9 the whole time. People tried to buy the FGCU gear we were wearing right off of us. One guy offered me $200 for my FGCU T-shirt."
Early on it looked like FGCU might continue its improbable run with a trip to the Elite 8. The Eagles started the game with a quick 15-4 run that put the Gators on their heels early. Florida quickly recovered and used a 16-2 run to cling to a 30-26 advantage at halftime.
The Gators used a full-court press and a big size advantage to slow down FGCU's quick-strike offense. They held FGCU to a tie for the Eagles' lowest point total of the season.
Senior Sherwood Brown paced the Eagles with 14 points. Chase Fieler added 12 points and six rebounds. Sophomore point guard Brett Comer was held to just four points and nine turnovers.
Comer sparked FGCU's earlier tournament wins with a combined 24 assists in the two games.
Senior guard Mike Rosario led the Gators with 15 points.