The Eagles played their first road game since December on Thursday night in Kennesaw, Ga. And for Rayjon Tucker, it was his first road game in the Atlantic Sun conference. But instead of coming out flat or with some jitters, which could be expected for a true freshman, the Charlotte, N.C. native sprung off the bench for a career-high 19 points as Florida Gulf Coast downed Kennesaw State, 79-74.
Tucker got on the board with a rim-shaking putback dunk with 13:01 remaining in the first half. While he continued staying aggressive attacking the paint, the 6-foot-5 freshman showcased his expanding repertoire as well by draining two shots from beyond the arc.
The play from the phenom freshman was just part of the reason for FGCU's dominance around the rim. Both Marc-Eddy Norelia, who had a near double-double (10 points, 9 rebounds), and Antravious Simmons (10 points, 3 rebounds) used the Eagles size advantage down low en-route to a 48-28 scoring margin in the paint.
Despite this, Florida Gulf Coast saw their lead dwinddle to just six at the midway point of the second half due to the phenomenal play of Kennesaw State's Kendrick Ray. The Owls guard, brother of former Villanova standout Allan Ray, poured in 31 points on 12/17 field goals.
But it was the young Eagles core, including Christian Terrell (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Zach Johnson (15 points, 5 rebounds), that made huge shots down the stretch to hold off the Owls. With under three minutes left in the game, Terrell nailed a crisp mid-range jumper with the shot clock expiring and then finished an acrobatic layup at the rim with 1:13 to put FGCU up nine. To cap off a fantastic night, Rayjon Tucker took a charge with 25 ticks left on the clock and nailed two free throws to seal the Eagles victory.