Florida Gulf Coast upsets 2nd-seeded Georgetown
Eagles are 7th 15th seed to beat a No. 2
Florida Gulf Coast has only been a Division I program for two years.
The way they played on Friday night against Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, it felt more like it was the Hoyas' introduction to March Madness rather than the Eagles' first time in the Dance.
The Eagles pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, knocking off the Hoyas 78-68 in front of a packed house at Wells Fargo Center.
FGCU took a two-point lead into the half, and came out of the intermission even stronger. Sherrod Brown's 3-pointer with 13:54 remaining pushed the FGCU lead to 46-33, and that advantage would grow to 19 with 12:30 remaining at the end of a 21-2 run by the Eagles.
"I just try to get my team really going whenever I play because I feel like if you can get one player to just get everyone involved and to get everyone's momentum going, then I feel like you can do anything," Brown said. "I was just trying to get my team going."
FGCU would continue to hold a double-digit advantage until an Otto Porter 3-pointer with 2:50 remaining got Georgetown within nine at 64-55.
The exclamation point came exactly one minute later, when Brett Comer found Chase Fieler on a broken play for a one-handed alley-oop slam that had everybody -- including the broadcast crew -- out of their seats. Fieler, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, had a number of impressive highlight dunks as part of his nine points and seven rebounds, but none more meaningful than that one.
"I think that might have been the highest (up) I've ever been," Fieler said, though he added he'd have to go watch the video to see. "Brett has great vision. He just threw it up and I had to go get it."
Georgetown wasn't totally finished, however. Markel Starks hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to 72-68 with under a minute to play. But FGCU did what it needed to, however, hitting 10 of 12 free throws in the final 76 seconds to seal the victory.
"They went on that stretch early in the second half where they made a bunch of shots, and then I think we got a little nervous and started spreading out too much," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
Brown finished with 24 points on 6 of 13 from the floor while Bernard Thompson added 23 and Comer 12 (and 10 assists) for the Eagles.
FGCU benefited from 33 team fouls against Georgetown that allowed the Eagles to get to the free-throw line 44 times, making 30. Conversely, FGCU committed just 18 fouls as the Hoyas went 13 of 20 from the free-throw line.
The Eagles became just the seventh 15-seed in NCAA history -- but the third in the past two years -- to pull off a first-round upset. Last year, Norfolk State beat Missouri and Lehigh sent Duke home early.
Florida Gulf Coast certainly played confident and poised from the outset, hanging with Georgetown the entire opening 20 minutes to take a 24-22 lead into the break.
Georgetown led by as many as seven midway through the period, but that advantage was short-lived, as FGCU closed out the half on a 13-4 run to take that two-point advantage into the break.
That FGCU even made the NCAA Tournament was somewhat surprising considering it was just the school's second full year as a Division I postseason-eligible member after joining the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2007.
They've made the Atlantic Sun title game in each of those two seasons, losing to Belmont last season before downing Mercer this season to lock up their first March Madness berth.
The Eagles already had one marquee win on the resume, a 63-51 decision over Miami (Fla.) back on Nov. 13. They played one of the tougher nonconference slates in the country, with losses to Virginia Commonwealth, St. John's, Iowa State and Duke helping to prepare them for the likes of 2nd-seeded Georgetown.
"At the beginning of the season, I asked our players what kind of schedule they wanted to play. ... One exempt tournament we played in had Duke and VCU in it and they wanted to play in that one," FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. "We thought we had the talent to do that.
"We'll play anyone, anywhere, at any time," he added later.
Clearly, that work paid off when it mattered most.
FGCU will play No. 7 San Diego State in the third round on Sunday.
NOTES: FGCU hasn't trailed at the half for 21 consecutive games, a streak that dates back to Dec. 31, when they trailed 36-35 to Kennesaw State ... Brown is the first player in FGCU history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. ... The Hoyas entered the game as the fourth-best defensive team in the country, allowing only 0.84 points per possession according to KenPom. ... The win is the first for an Atlantic Sun team since Georgia State beat Wisconsin in 2001, and just the third win for the conference in NCAA Tournament play since 1981.