DUNK CITY, Fla. (FGCU Athletics) – In arguably its best performance of the year, the FGCU men’s basketball team (21-7, 11-1 Atlantic Sun Conference) shot a season-best 55 percent from the field, tied a season-high with 11 3-pointers and tallied a season-establishing 86 points en route to a commanding 86-72 win against USC Upstate (20-9, 7-5 A-Sun) in front of another standing-room-only sellout crowd at Alico Arena Saturday night.
The win is the 10th in a row for the Eagles, who are tied with Wisconsin for the fifth-longest winning streak in the nation. The victory is also the 100th in the career of head coach Joe Dooley, who is in his second season at the helm of FGCU. The 21 wins are now tied with the 2012-13 Sweet 16 team for the most in Division-I program history, and keep the Green and Blue alone in first place in the A-Sun.
Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) led the way with 22 points and nine assists as Dunk City’s maestro just missed his sixth double-double of the year but eclipsed 800 career assists (802). Fellow backcourt mate Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) bounced back from a shaky performance on Thursday with a solid 19-point outing on the strength of 5-5 from 3-point range while also grabbing five rebounds.
The Eagles are now set up for a primetime showdown against North Florida (18-11, 10-2 A-Sun) Wednesday night inside The Nest. With a victory, FGCU will clinch its second-straight A-Sun regular-season championship and subsequent No. 1 seed and hosting responsibilities in March’s A-Sun Tournament.
After Upstate – the only team to defeat UNF this year – raced to 6-0 and 9-2 leads to open the game, FGCU responded with a 12-0 run to take a 14-9 lead and never looked back the rest of the night. The Spartans cut the deficit to one on a couple of occasions, but the Eagles eventually built up a 10-point halftime lead, 44-34.
Four of the previous five meetings between the two teams had been decided by four points or less, but Thompson made sure that wouldn’t be the case on Saturday as the senior knocked down the first three 3-pointers he took in the second half to create a 53-36 lead just more than two minutes into the second half. From there the lead ballooned to as much as 23 as the Eagles won their seventh-straight game over Upstate – a team which won at Georgia Tech and Mississippi State in the non-conference docket.
“As we settled into the game we got some offensive rhythm. We did a good job of moving the ball and we valued possessions by not turning it over,” said Dooley. “Once we got into that rhythm we played pretty well and we were fortunate to slow them down in the second half.”
Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) added 13 points and six rebounds for the Eagles, while Julian DeBose (Washington, D.C./St. John College HS/Rice) contributed 11 points and six rebounds of his own as FGCU’s core four were responsible for 75 percent of the team’s scoring.
Upstate’s Ty Greene was phenomenal as the senior guard scored 31 points – the most points any individual has scored against FGCU this year. Fred Miller netted 12 points, while ShunQuez Stephens added eight points and eight rebounds for the Spartans, who were only allowing opponents to score 59.6 points per game coming into the contest.
Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech) added nine points – his second-highest scoring performance of the year – in a starting role for FGCU, while Demetris Morant (Miami, Fla./Bishop Gorman HS/UNLV) chipped in with six points and five rebounds – four on the offensive end.
One game after shooting a paltry 2-24 (8.3 percent) from beyond the arc in a 54-53 win over Kennesaw State on Thursday night, FGCU fired at a 45.8-percent clip Saturday and also received 34 points in the paint as Dunk City threw down five slams.
FGCU’s winning streak is third to only a pair of 14-game streaks in 2003-04 and 2006-07. The victory also now evens FGCU’s all-time A-Sun record at 71-71, representing the first time the Eagles have been at .500 all-time in the league since they were 4-4 during their inaugural campaign in 2007-08.
Coupled with the No. 22/24 women’s basketball team’s win at Upstate, FGCU is one of only two schools in the nation (Gonzaga) with a men’s and women’s basketball program that have each won at least 10-straight games.
Dooley, who has posted a 43-20 record at FGCU after a 57-52 mark in four seasons at East Carolina from 1995-99, is only the third coach in program history and now the second to reach 100 career victories. His .683 winning percentage at FGCU is currently the best in program history, ahead of Dave Balza (153-121, .558 winning percentage from 2002-11) and Andy Enfield (41-28, .594 winning percentage from 2011-13).
A limited amount of tickets are available for Wednesday’s marquee showdown with the Ospreys, which is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. In addition to the postseason implications on the line, the evening will be Senior Night for Comer, Thompson, Jones, Hicks and Marcus Blake (Miami, Fla./American Heritage HS).
Additionally, Dick Vitale will be holding a book signing in the Alico Arena Auxiliary Gym from 4-6 p.m. and will then remain in the building to interact with the fans and watch the Eagles square off against the Ospreys. Fans can purchase copies of his latest book: “It’s Awesome Baby! 75 Years of Memories and a Lifetime of Opinions on the Game I Love” by clicking here or by calling Denise Da Silveira, Assistant AD for Marketing & Sales, at 239-590-7060.
GAME NOTES: FGCU now leads the all-time series, 12-4 … since 2012-13, FGCU is an incredible 38-1 when leading at halftime, with the lone loss coming to FIU this year (32-28 halftime score) … FGCU is 42-4 at Alico Arena since the start of the 2012-13 season, and in A-Sun regular-season games in that timeframe, FGCU is a dominant 23-1 inside the friendly confines of The Nest, and has won 21 in a row … several former FGCU basketball players were in attendance as part of Alumni Weekend as the group played a game on Saturday afternoon … the contest was a PINKOUT, with T-shirt proceeds benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer … FGCU’s previous season high for points was 84 at Massachusetts.