In the ultimate Cinderella story, 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast will make their way to the Sweet 16 after a convincing 81-71 victory over San Diego State. The FGCU Eagles were absolutely tremendous in the second-half, outscoring the Aztecs by an 11-point margin, thanks to a 17-0 run in the middle of the half that saw SDSU unable to score for over 7 minutes of clock time.
On the night, the Eagles shot a blistering 56% from the field, led by 9-for-15 shooting from Bernard Thompson (who finished with 23 points), and a crazy 14-assist game from point guard Brett Comer.
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It was a masterful offense performance for the entirety of the night, but their defense keyed the put-away run in the second-half with some lockdown intensity and play-making. Their athleticism is staggering for a so-called “mid-major” team, and if you took the names off of the front of the jersey, it would look a lot like major-conference talent.
San Diego State didn’t play particularly poorly in the game, out-rebounding the Eagles 33-to-27, and generally playing a solid brand of basketball, but their second-half offensive outage doomed them here. Jamaal Franklin, in possibly his last game with SDSU, scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, but his counterpart Chase Tapley struggled all night (7-for-18 shooting), and they couldn’t sustain success late.
At the end of the night, the craziest part of the discussion is a 15-seed playing in the Sweet 16. I really thought that FGCU was the better team in both of their 1st-weekend match-ups (which seems insane), and if they can play with the same level of intensity and productivity, there’s no reason they can’t hang with the admittedly more talented Florida Gators. They’ll be no shortage of partying on that campus this week, and if their on-court swagger is any indication, the party will start and end with the players on the team.
What an amazing cinderella story — one that has yet to see the clock strike midnight.
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