• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles stun No. 7 Florida Atlantic Owls

Byusanewscart.com

Dec 31, 2023 #Sports

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dunk City has pulled off another surprise.

A decade or so removed from making the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament as a No. 15 seed, Florida Gulf Coast made a splash again Saturday night — this time taking down a Florida Atlantic team that made the Final Four last season and was ranked No. 7 in the country this week.

Zach Anderson scored 21 points, Dallion Johnson added 18 and the Eagles beat the Owls 72-68. FAU became the highest-ranked opponent FGCU has beaten in its history; that “Dunk City” crew beat then-No. 8 Georgetown in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tourney.

“We created our luck tonight,” FGCU coach Pat Chambers said. “We had everything going against us tonight … and we still found a way.”

Cyrus 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 needed overtime to beat NAIA member Florida Memorial last week.

Vladislav Goldin scored 21 points for FAU (10-3), and Johnell Davis added 17 for the Owls — a team that beat then-No. 4 Arizona last weekend.

“What we’ve learned is that our highs are very high and our lows are relatively low,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “And so, back to the drawing board as we head into league play.”

FGCU led by 13 in the first half and by 11 in the second half. The Eagles took the lead with 14:13 left in the opening half on a 3-pointer by Anderson and didn’t trail again.

But they had to dig deep late. 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 on the next trip down the floor — all 3-point tries, all missing, 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, celebrating after FGCU improved to 2-13 all-time against ranked teams since fully joining Division I.

“We’re going to have the court storms if we’re not careful,” May said. “We’re going to have everyone’s best, emotional shot coming at us every single game. We have to learn from this.”

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 the “Dunk City” team to the Sweet 16 in 2013.

“These guys right here are battle-tested,” Chambers said. “These experiences are going to help us going into conference play.”

Chambers is in his second season at FGCU, leading the Eagles to a 17-15 finish in his debut. The former Penn State coach failed to make the NCAA tournament in all nine seasons with the Nittany Lions, but took Boston University into the Round of 64 in 2011. The Eagles haven’t made the tournament since 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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