On a night that started promising, the luck quickly turned for the Eagles in the second half against the Florida Gators. It was the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde performance for Florida Gulf Coast. After leading by a point going into the locker room, Florida held FGCU to just 17 second half points en route to a 70-50 victory.
"Well, the second half it was obvious, second chance points and points off of turnovers," coach Joe Dooley said. "When you turn it over like we did in the second half, didn't give our defense a chance to get set."
The first half was a dream sequence for the Eagles. The defense caused the Gators to shoot only 30-percent from the floor, and the offense had a nice flow to it. The tenacious play of Zach Johnson was a big reason why. He had six points in the first half on three of four shooting, including a massive fast break dunk that put Florida freshman KeVaughn Allen on a poster.
If the first half was a dream sequence, then the second was a nightmare. Florida looked like an entirely different team out of the locker room. They went on a 10-0 run to start it off, and never looked back. The Gators looked to their big men to carry the load, and they were able to punish the paint. Sophomore center John Egbunu was literally a big reason why UF was able to complete the comeback. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards to pace the Gators.
Florida's defense went into shutdown mode in the second half, and the Eagles weren't able to crack it. FGCU turned the ball over 12 times alone in the final 20 minutes of the game, and the Gators made them pay by scoring 18 points off them. On the night, Florida Gulf Coast turned it over 18 times, and Florida turned that into 26 points.
"The thing that we need to get better at is the mental mistakes that are caused..." Dooley said. "Those things can't happen."
Despite getting punched in the mouth, the Eagles faught and clawed the whole time. They showed flashes of making a comeback, but could never find the rhythym that they had in the first half. The theme of the season so far has been the youth movement, and their young guards showed more promise Friday night. At the very least, the loss is a great learning experience for the team, and will only help the young players take the next step.
"I think we did a lot better job of competing this game than any other game before this, and I think that's great that we're getting there, but we need to do it all the time," sophomore guard Christian Terrell said.
Terrell delivered another solid performance, nearly reaching a double-double. He finished with nine points and nine rebounds, leading the team in both categories.
- FGCU did not have a single player reach double-digit scoring, the first time that has happened all season
- Dorian Finney-Smith went off for 23 points on 7-13 shooting, pacing the offense of the Gators
- Demetris Morant made his first start of the season, playing 17 minutes, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds