ESTERO, Fla. (FGCU Athletics) – Behind 42 combined points from its senior backcourt duo, a season-high-tying 11 3-pointers and six dunks, the FGCU men’s basketball team (12-7, 2-1 Atlantic Sun Conference) bounced back a road defeat with an emphatic 79-50 victory over Jacksonville (7-13, 1-2 A-Sun) in front of a raucous and season-best 4,663 standing-room-only fans Saturday night at Alico Arena.
Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) shot 7-10 from the floor, including 4-5 from 3-point range, to finish with a game-high 25 points – his most in a regulation game this season. Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) was on target all night as well, going 6-7 from the floor and a perfect 4-4 from deep to tally 17 points and finish as the Eagles’ only other double-figure scorer.
The Eagles shot a season-best 53 percent from the field (27-51), including a season-high-tying 55 percent from 3-point range (11-20) – with the 11 triples representing the most versus a Division-I opponent for FGCU this year.
Both teams got off to fast starts, and the game was tied, 27-27, with 4 minutes remaining in the first half. But the Eagles’ offense exploded in the closing 3:14 of the stanza, knocking down four 3-pointers as part of a half-closing 14-1 run to open up a 41-28 halftime lead. The stretch was part of larger 19-3 run for FGCU to end the half as the Eagles trailed 25-22 with 6:30 left.
Jacksonville scored the first five points, and seven of the first nine, coming out of the halftime break to trim its deficit to single digits, 43-35. However, the Eagles responded with an 11-1 run – capped by a Comer 3 – to open up an 18-point edge, 54-36. After the two teams traded a few buckets, the Green and Blue went on one final run to leave no doubt as the Eagles rattled off 13 unanswered to go up by 30, 69-39, with 7:30 left.
“We were sluggish early and allowed JU to dribble-drive pretty easily, but once we got our footing behind Brett and Bernard they allowed us to play a little bit faster and stretch the defense, even against the zone,” commented FGCU head coach Joe Dooley. “But it all comes back to if we can put the ball in the basket, and we shot the ball well, especially from 3. Bernard got us off to a great start and Brett’s energy helped us as well.”
Comer, who has finished as the team’s top (or tied) assist man in 17 of 18 games this year and 111 of 122 career contests, issued four helpers against the Dolphins – second to Julian DeBose’s game-high seven. The total is a career high for DeBose (Washington, D.C./St. John College HS), who had more assists than Jacksonville’s entire team (six) and also added nine points and a season-high-tying seven rebounds and two blocks.
After allowing Jacksonville to shoot 48 percent (11-23) from the floor in the first half, FGCU locked in during the second half as it limited the Dolphins to just 23 percent (6-26) in the closing 20 minutes. JU was the only team in the A-Sun to score at least 70 points in both of its meetings with FGCU last year.
Andris Misters (19) and Kori Babineaux (15) combined to account for nearly 70 percent of Jacksonville’s scoring as no other Dolphins’ player had more than six points. The ‘Fins entered the game having connected on 24 of their previous 49 3-point attempts (49 percent) over a three-game stretch, but FGCU’s conference-leading and seventh-best 3-point defense nationally locked in and only allowed them to connect at a 31-percent clip (5-16).
The 29-point win is FGCU’s largest since it also defeated Jacksonville at The Nest last year by 29 points, 100-71. In that game, Comer tallied a career-high 30 points as the Dunk City maestro has now scored 55 points against the Dolphins in the last two meetings.
The Eagles grabbed 14 offensive rebounds as part of a 37-26 rebounding edge, with those 14 offensive caroms leading to a season-best 26 second-chance points – 10 more than in any other game this year. Demetris Morant (Miami, Fla./Bishop Gorman HS/UNLV) led the charge with a game-high eight, including four on the offensive end, while Marc-Eddy Norelia (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS/Tulane) grabbed five to go along with eight points.
FGCU hits the road for another big early-season A-Sun road test when the Eagles begin a two-game swing at USC Upstate (13-6, 1-2 A-Sun) on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. The Spartans, who lost at home to Northern Kentucky, 66-65, Saturday afternoon, is the only team in the league with more wins than the Eagles. The contest will be the second-straight road game to open the season for FGCU against a team predicted to finish in the top four of the league ledger (FGCU 1st, North Florida 2nd, Lipscomb 3rd, USC Upstate 4th). Following the game, FGCU will travel to Georgia to face Kennesaw State on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m.