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FGCU men’s basketball team headed to NIT

March 6, 2018
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The top-seeded FGCU men's basketball team (23-11) dug itself a 32-point deficit and nearly came all the way back against hot-shooting and 2nd-seeded Lipscomb (23-9) in the ASUN Championship Final on Sunday, but the Eagles fell short, 108-96.

By virtue of its ASUN regular-season title (12-2 record), FGCU will play in the NIT. The Eagles will learn their first-round opponent and likely destination following the early-evening NCAA Tournament selection show next Sunday, March 11.

Zach Johnson set the single-game Division I program record with 37 points - tied for the most all-time - on the strength of a D-I program record nine 3-pointers. Brandon Goodwin was right behind the junior with a career-high 34 points - which was tied for the most in D-I program history entering the game.

Lipscomb shot a blistering 65 percent (32-49) from the floor for the game, but it was a poor opening 20 minutes which ultimately cost the Eagles.

The Bisons led by as much as 32 in the first half and took a 60-31 lead into the half after shooting 67 percent from the floor (20-30).

FGCU flipped the script in the second half, outscoring the Nashville school, 65-48. Trailing by 32, 69-37, with just over 16 minutes remaining, the Eagles mounted a furious comeback and whittled that deficit down to single digits in only seven minutes, 81-73. FGCU trimmed it even further - to just five, 87-82 - and had a six-point differential, 99-93, with two minutes left but couldn't get any closer.

"Give credit to Lipscomb; they started hot and really got going offensively and we had no answer," commented FGCU head coach Joe Dooley. "We were able to turn them over and mount a comeback in the 2nd half. I'm proud of the guys for the fight they displayed, but we just dug ourselves too big of a hole."

FGCU was able to mount that comeback thanks to full-court pressure, which - in part - was responsible for 13 second-half Bisons turnovers and 21 Green and Blue points. The Eagles nearly made as many shots (17) as Lipscomb attempted (19) in the 2nd half, but the Bisons once again connected at a prolific clip from the floor, going 63 percent (12-19) while FGCU went 17-42 (40 percent).

The Eagles tied a program record (most in D-I history; since 2007-08) with 16 made 3-pointers, but attempted a program-record-tying 40 to get there (40 percent) as the usually-stout FGCU interior was outscored in the paint, 38-26, for just the fifth time this year. The Eagles came into the game averaging 41.2 points in the paint; they led the nation in that category last year at 41.3.

Lipscomb's Garrison Mathews set the tone for the Bisons from the outset, blitzing FGCU with 26 points on five 3-pointers in the 1st half before finishing with 33 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds.

Antravious Simmons finished as FGCU's only other double-figure scorer with 11 points and a team-best eight rebounds. The Eagles finished with a 36-34 edge on the boards, but had an 18-5 advantage on the offensive end, leading to a 30-9 cushion in second-chance points.

The performance by Johnson set the ASUN Championship Final scoring record, while the 16 3-pointers for the Eagles also established a conference final-game mark.



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