The dance may be over for the tournament’s Cinderella, but FGCU’s basketball team continues to bask in the afterglow of its first date with March Madness.
More than 100 fans turned out at Alico Arena on Saturday to welcome the Eagles back to the nest. Boldly going where no No. 15 seed had gone before -- the Sweet 16 -- the Eagles made a historic run at the NCAA Division I title before coming up short of the Elite Eight with a 62-50 loss to No. 3 University of Florida.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 11-point lead in the Friday night game, firing up the FGCU section at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Blue- and green-painted students who packed two buses for the 20-hour road trip chanted “FG! CU! FG! CU!” as newfound fans from around the country joined in.
More than 40,000 people watched in the cavernous venue as the Gators brought the high-flying Eagles back down to earth with scoring runs, three-point shots and aggressive defense. FGCU trailed Florida 30-26 at halftime and was outscored 32-24 in the second half.
Nevertheless, the team’s runaway success and swagger early in the tournament threw a national spotlight on FGCU and Fort Myers and inspired the hearts and hopes of college basketball fans and underdog-lovers nationwide.
“It was great to see the excitement across the country with the underdog, and it's just a real feeling when you’re the underdog and you’re the talk of the nation,” FGCU coach Andy Enfield told The Associated Press. “Our plan wasn't to become some great national story. Our plan was to go in and compete and win games. It was unbelievable to see the excitement and passion of not only our local community, the students, but also the national level.”
FGCU, which went 26-11 in its second season with Division-I postseason eligibility, became only the fourth team in Atlantic Sun Conference history to win an NCAA Tournament game. The Eagles will return in the fall without two key seniors: Sherwood Brown, Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and FGCU’s leading scorer and rebounder; and Bishop Verot graduate Eddie Murray of North Fort Myers.
Season tickets for the 2013-14 men’s basketball season can now be secured with a $50 deposit. Call 590-7145 or go to www.fgcuathletics.com/tickets.
Eagles fans already knew it, but the rest of America now knows that FGCU’s upset win over Georgetown on Friday was no fluke. FGCU continued its Cinderella saga Sunday by advancing to the NCAA Tournament’s “Sweet 16.”
With a decisive 81-71 victory over San Diego State, the Eagles became the lowest-seeded team in history to reach the March Madness semifinals. The team will next face No. 3 University of Florida on Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game airs at 9:57 p.m. EST on TBS.
The FGCU men’s swagger and spirit, not to mention their speed and dunking finesse, have captured the hearts of hoops fans and underdog-lovers across the country. The national buzz has ignited interest in Florida Gulf Coast University, now affectionately dubbed “Dunk City.”
To purchase Eagles apparel or other school merchandise, go to http://www.bkstr.com/NavigationSearchDisplay/10001-10029000-10311-1?demoKey=d&navActionType=addNewRefinement.
The FGCU men’s basketball team is headed to Philadelphia as the No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, set to take on No. 2 seed Georgetown at 6:50 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Wells Fargo Center.
The game will be televised on TBS with Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller on the call. Southwest Florida’s ESPN Radio will carry the game locally on 770 AM, 96.5 FM (Lee County), 98.1 FM (Lee County), 101.5 FM (North Collier) and 105.1 FM (Naples/Marco Island) with David Moulton calling all the action.
Tickets are $85 and are good for the FGCU-Georgetown game followed by the matchup of No. 7 seed Oklahoma vs. No. 10 seed San Diego State. For tickets, call or visit the FGCU ticket office at Alico Arena 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at (239) 590-7145 or order online at www.fgcuathletics.com/tickets.
Karen Feldman, editor of FGCU’s Pinnacle magazine, will be posting updates during and after the game on Florida Gulf Coast University’s Facebook page. For around-the-clock updates follow FGCU on Twitter @FGCU_MBB or for photos follow @FGCU_MBB on Instagram.