Florida Gulf Coast took home a road win in conference play on Thursday night as they held on, 78-75, to defeat Kennesaw State.
But more importantly, Thursday marked the return of Marc-Eddy Norelia. FGCU's leading scorer from a season ago hadn't appeared in a game since Dec. 13. He traveled with the team to Stetson last weekend but did not play.
The 6-foot-8 senior took the floor just a few minutes into the game and immediately made his presence felt, knocking down a smooth turn around jumper. There was some noticeable rust (going 3/8 from the free throw line), which is to be expected for a player that returned to practices just two week ago. But Norelia still ended the night with a very impressive 21 points and 6 rebounds.
Despite his energy influx, FGCU looked a bit amiss on the defensive end. The Owls had cutters running constantly and capitalized with some easy buckets to lead 38-37 at halftime.
Kennesaw State came out of the break swinging, opening up an eight point lead just three minutes into the 2nd half. They continued to take advantage of lackadaisical defense to get easy looks near the hoop. That, combined with Nick Masterson's hot outside shooting, had the all the momentum going the Owls way.
But thanks to the offensive rebounding of Demetris Morant, FGCU remained within striking distance. The Eagles then answered with a quick scoring burst midway through the second half to regain the lead.
And as you might expect with a conference game on the road, this when went down to the wire.
FGCU took a 77-72 lead with 30 seconds left but the Owls came storming back. With the Eagles up 77-75, Norelia was fouled. Despite some free throw struggles earlier in the game, he knocked down 1/2 to put his team up three.
On KSU's final posession, Tyler Hooker tossed up a three with a few second left. But Zach Johnson came flying in for the block...remind me if that sounds familiar.
Florida Gulf Coast is now 13-5 (2-0) and heads to Lipscomb for another road test on Saturday.
Marc-Eddy Norelia: 21 points (9/13 FGs), 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Brandon Goodwin: 20 points (7/12 FGs), 2 assists
Demetris Morant: 13 points (6/7 FGs), 12 reboundsnull