FGCU ends losing streak with ugly win against Ave Maria

Author: Jason MacBain, FGCU

n the strength of nine second-half dunks, including seven alley-oop connections between Brett Comer and Demetris Morant, the shorthanded FGCU men’s basketball team (10-5) overcame a slow start to defeat Ave Maria University (7-6) 49-36 Friday night at Alico Arena in the Eagles’ non-conference home finale.

Morant (Miami, Fla./Bishop Gorman HS/UNLV) finished with a career-high 14 points and matched a career best with eight rebounds, while Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) reached double-figure assists for the sixth time this year by issuing a game-high 12. Freshman Christian Terrell (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence HS) earned his first collegiate start and netted 11 points while grabbing a season-high seven rebounds.

FGCU was without four players – including three starters – as head coach Joe Dooley elected to rest leading scorer Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) and center Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech) while double-figure scorer Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) served the fifth contest of a six-game suspension and redshirt freshman Logan Hovey (Orlando, Fla./Paul J. Hagerty HS) was unavailable due to an eye injury.

The 49 points are the second-fewest in a win in program history for FGCU, which defeated Campbell, then an Atlantic Sun Conference member, 47-39, during the 2010-11 season. The Green and Blue’s defense held Ave Maria to the third-fewest points allowed in program history, with the other two lowest both being 30-point outings by Penn in 2007-08 and Florida Christian College in 2002-03.

Both teams struggled mightily in the first half as Ave Maria took a 13-12 lead into the halftime break. FGCU got the spark it needed in the second half as Julian DeBose (Washington, D.C./St. John College HS) scored the Eagles’ first seven points of the stanza, with his 3-pointer at the 17:53 mark tying the game for the first time, 19-19.

With FGCU holding a 23-22 lead with 13 minutes left, a stretch of three consecutive alley-oops from Comer to Morant in just one minute awoke the 4,071 fans inside The Nest as FGCU climbed to its largest lead at that point, 29-22. The lead swelled to 15, 37-22, following a Marc-Eddy Norelia (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS/Tulane) dunk at the 7:20 mark which capped a 14-0 Dunk City run. The Eagles’ defense held the Gyrenes without a point for nearly 10 minutes during the game-deciding stretch.

“The first half set basketball back a few years,” remarked Dooley. “Ave Maria did a good job controlling the tempo and we were flat and missed shots – which is not a good combination. Once we got a little bit of momentum in the second half we played a little bit more and got some guys some minutes they needed to get. But we’ll have some things to learn from moving forward.”

Aided by those nine dunks, FGCU did not miss a shot from inside the 3-point line in the second half, going a perfect 15-15 as part of a blistering 77.3-percent clip from the floor in the second half (17-22). For the game FGCU shot 51.2 percent (21-41), but the A-Sun’s leading 3-point shooting team struggled from long range en route to just a 3-18 performance from beyond the arc.

DeBose finished with nine points and four rebounds, while Comer netted five points and played all but two minutes. Norelia added eight points – the only eight points FGCU received from its bench on the evening.

Ave Maria finished with just one assist as a team and was led at the offensive end by Exor Torres who tallied 12 and Jelani Bonnor with 11. The Gyrenes, an NAIA member, shot 31.7 percent from the floor (13-41), marking the first opponent in seven games which the Eagles have kept below 40 percent from the field.

The win gave FGCU, ranked No. 15 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, double-figure non-conference victories for the first time in program history with the previous record being just eight during the 2012-13 campaign. The Eagles out-scored Ave Maria in the paint, 34-12, representing the 27th-straight win for FGCU when scoring at least 15 more points in the paint than their opponents (dating back to 2011-12).

FGCU will conclude its non-conference schedule when its challenging road non-league docket continues by traveling across the country to meet UC Santa Barbara (5-7) on Monday at 10 p.m. EST. The contest will be the second of the year between the two teams as the Gauchos were defeated by the Green and Blue at The Nest in November, 81-75, in overtime.

Following the meeting with UC Santa Barbara, FGCU will open its defense of the A-Sun regular-season championship by hosting in-state foe Stetson on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. The game will be the second of a doubleheader as the women (13-2 and No. 15 in the RPI) battle the Hatters in a pivotal matchup at 4 p.m.

GAME NOTES: FGCU is now 36-4 at Alico Arena dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season and 24-2 at home versus non-conference foes since 2011-12 … Comer, who entered the game second in the nation with an assist rate of 50.6 percent, was responsible for 80 percent of FGCU’s 15 assists … the Eagles turned the ball over 15 times … FGCU went 4-6 from the free-throw line … the Eagles won the battle on the glass, 30-20 … six of FGCU’s seven non-conference home games had crowds of 4,000 or more (4,333 capacity).

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.