JACKSONVILLE (FGCU Athletics) – Despite an extended 22-5 run in the second half which turned a 13-point deficit into a four-point lead, the FGCU men’s basketball team (21-9, 11-3 Atlantic Sun Conference) closed the regular season with a 75-69 loss at Jacksonville (10-21, 4-10 A-Sun) Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, FGCU gets the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament, and the Eagles won’t have to wait long to see Jacksonville again as the Dolphins are seeded 7th. The two teams will face off in the quarterfinals at Alico Arena on Tuesday, Mar. 3, at 7 p.m.
FGCU was playing for its second-straight A-Sun regular-season title. The Eagles could still share the title with North Florida (19-11, 11-2 A-Sun), but it would mean the Ospreys – who have clinched the No. 1 seed – lose at home Saturday night to Stetson (9-20, 3-10 A-Sun).
Redshirt junior Julian DeBose (Washington, D.C./St. John College HS/Rice) scored a season-high 19 points – one off matching his career best – to lead a quartet of FGCU double-figure scorers. Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette) added 14 points, Brett Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) scored 11 and issued a game-high eight assists and Bernard Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) just missed a double-double with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Thompson also recorded three steals to set the A-Sun career thefts record with 260, surpassing the 259 of Vaughn Williams, who played at former league member Arkansas-Little Rock from 1980-83.
Trailing 49-36 with exactly 12 minutes left, FGCU rattled off 13 straight points in less than four minutes to tie the game at 49-49. A pair of free throws by Jacksonville’s Marcellous Bell put the hosts up two, but Jones answered with a layup before JU went back up on a Marcel White 3-pointer.
Back down by one, 54-53, DeBose hit a 3 and Thompson added a fastbreak layup to put the Eagles up four, 58-54, and cap the 22-5 spurt at the 5:50 mark. JU responded, and with the game tied at 60-60 hit consecutive 3-pointers to go ahead by six, 66-60, with 3:20 left. FGCU got no closer than three the rest of the way as after a 10-game winning streak the Eagles will enter the A-Sun tourney on a two-game slide.
“We turned the ball over a few times late and didn’t value possessions like we should have,” said FGCU head coach Joe Dooley of his team’s 12 turnovers – the first double-figure turnover game in four contests. “I think the pressure has shifted the last two games and we’ve played tight. Also, at this point of the season if you don’t have energy, you’re not going to win. JU had better energy, and they won the game.”
FGCU dig itself a deficit as large as 14 late in the first half before JU took a 38-27 lead into the halftime break. The Eagles shot 51.5 percent from the floor in the second half to get back into the contest while holding the Dolphins to 34.8 percent (8-23), but Jacksonville made 17 of 20 free throws in the second stanza to hold on.
White came off the bench to lead Jacksonville with 19 points, while Kori Babineaux finished with 18. Andris Misters also came off the bench to finish in double figures with 10 points, a total matched by J.R. Holder. Babineaux added seven assists for the Dolphins, who finished tied on the glass with FGCU, 37-37.
General-admission tickets to Tuesday’s A-Sun quarterfinal game are still available and can be purchased for $15 by logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets, visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office or by calling 239-590-7145. Season ticket holders should have already received email correspondence with instructions as to how to secure their seats in advance. With a win on Tuesday, FGCU will also host a semifinal game on Thursday, Mar. 5, at 7 p.m.