FGCU got off to a sluggish start against KSU, a problem that they had seemed to get rid of lately. In the first half, the Eagles shot 8-31 from the floor, including a disturbing 1-14 from three point land. On the other side, the Owls shot 7-11 from behind the arc, courtesy of Nigel Pruitt (4-4) and Yonel Brown (3-5). The Owls started in a zone defense, and the FGCU guards just couldn't knock down shots against it. Brett Comer couldn't find any breaks to cut, and had to settle for jump shots. Comer shot 1-7 in the first half, including 0-5 from three. Thompson, who's entire season has been a bit of a mystery, was also 0-5 from three. FGCU was active on the offensive glass with 12 boards, but so was KSU unfortunately. The Owls had 11 offensive boards, but out-rebounded FGCU on the whole 22-18. With all that considered, it's no surprise that Kennesaw State led 31-23 at the half.
As far as the energy level is concerned, the Eagles didn't let their tough start discourage them. They entered the floor, led by Jamail Jones, waving their hands pleading the fans to get on their feet.
FGCU came out of the locker room noticeably more aggressive in their quest to get to the hoop. On multiple occasions, FGCU was able to make a few runs to cut into the Owls' lead, but could never quite get over the hump. KSU controlled the pace of the game for the entire night, making it harder on FGCU to get into any type of rhythm. Still, Joe Dooley's squad was slowly chipping away at the lead despite their shooting woes. One of the adjustments that was made at the defensive end was a full-court press that threw the Owls' offense out of whack. They weren't always pretty points, but when FGCU was able to get stops, Comer was pushing it to the basket with a full head of steam.
The energy in the arena was unbelievable in the second half. No matter what the deficit, the FGCU faithful were louder than they've been all season. "Great crowd. I don't think fans realize what an impact they can make on the game," head coach Dooley said. "Our fans are terrific, and the noise and getting into it... They can change games."
Led by some Rondo-esque drives from Brett Comer, FGCU was able to complete the comeback and gut out the victory. With 1:35 left in the game, Comer was able to spin his way into the lane and get to the hoop for a layup that would give FGCU their first lead since the 11-minute mark of the first half. KSU's Orlando Coleman (5-8, 11 points) would answer though by nailing his only three of the night. After a Demetris Morant (3-4 FT, 5 points, 6 rebounds) free throw, KSU guard Nigel Pruitt (6-10, 19 points) threw a lazy pass to Yonel Brown (3-16, 9 points) that was picked off by Bernard Thompson. With all 4,633 fans at The Nest on their feet and screaming, Thompson passed it in transition to Jamail Jones (3-10, 6 points) for the lay in, giving the Eagles a 54-53 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.
"I feel every win is a good win because, you know, you won," Comer said. "Obviously it was ugly, it was really ugly, and we didn't play well at all. We made a lot of mistakes on both ends of the floor, and we didn't rebound the ball too well. But we found a way to win, and that's all that really matters."
Comer led the team in scoring with 16 points on a cool 8-11 from the charity stripe.
FGCU's lead in the Atlantic Sun conference is still at one game over North Florida, who comes to town next Wednesday. However, Ty Greene and the USC Upstate Spartan travel to The Nest on Saturday for what could be a crucial showdown in terms of conference tournament seeding. Upstate has been inconsistent since entering conference play, but the Eagles will undoubtedly have to play better than they did Thursday night if they want to beat the Spartans.