In an unbelievable back and forth game where national powerhouse Michigan State edged America's favorite Cinderella story Florida Gulf Coast, the clock operator turned out to be the biggest story of the night. Down 77-76, with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Christian Terrell inbounded the ball to Antravious Simmons on a full court pass. The clock started before the the ball touched Simmons' hands and the horn the sounded as he was catching it. This forced Simmons to put up a wild shot from inside the key that was missed, and the game was over.
"He was going to try to lay it in. With 1.6, you have to catch, dribble, and then try to throw it. He heard the horn and threw it. We knew we had 1.6 so that’s a dribble - catch and dribble, or catch and shoot. As soon as he caught it he heard the horn so he flipped it," FGCU coach Joe Dooley said.
The game was decided by someone who wasn't even on the court.
"The referee did not have control of the clock. By rule, if the ball had gone in they could review. If it didn’t, you can’t review it," Dooley said. "But he caught the ball at zero so that’s…"
I'll finish that statement for Dooley, who trailed off at that point.
The play was reviewed, but by rule, they couldn't replay it.
Nonetheless, the Eagles put the fear of god into the Spartans on their home court, and considering they were without their best all-around player in Marc-Eddy Norelia, showed just how dangerous they can be come March.
The final ten minutes of the game was some of the most exciting college basketball you'll see in the months before the Tournament. With three minutes to go, the Eagles held a 68-64 lead, and you could hear a pin drop within the Breslin Center. The most exciting play of the night came with 23 seconds on the clock as FGCU trailed 75-73. Dooley drew up a brilliant inbounds play, but Raysean Scott Jr. missed the layup. However, Zach Johnson was there to clean up the glass, throwing down a monster put-back dunk to tie it up.
The game got off to a slow start, but picked up as the first half went on. MSU was able to keep the Eagles at bay, and pulled ahead by 9 with under two minutes to go. Then Brandon Goodwin happened. Goodwin scored the final five field goals of the half for FGCU, and the Eagles were able to pull to within two going into the locker room.
Eron Harris carried the load for Sparty, scoring a career high 31 points on a blistering six of six from behind the three point line. While the Eagles were prepared from the start to throw a double-team on superstar freshman Miles Bridges, they didn't have an answer for Harris. Down 71-68, it was Harris was able to nail his final three pointer of the night to tie it once again for Sparty.
On FGCU's side, they got three-point production from an unlikely source in the freshman Scott. Scott had 14 points on four of six from three-point land. When the Eagles needed a big bucket, it was Scott who came up in the clutch.
"Once I hit my first three, the rim actually gets bigger to me. The rim was kinda big, my teammates were finding me, and I was just letting them go. I was balling," Scott said confidently.
While the Eagles are off to a 1-3 start, they have nothing to hang their heads about. Coming into the game, Michigan State was the thirteenth ranked team in the country. With additional losses to Florida and Baylor, FGCU is through the teeth of their schedule and will turn their attention to bringing the same kind of intensity to games against lesser opponents.
"We've been building chemistry and we know that, not trying to be cocky or anything, that nobody can really mess with us," Goodwin said. "We have the players. We have the talent. We play hard every single game no matter who the opponent is. We're going to go out and compete and we're not going to back down from anybody."