Lowly Florida Gulf Coast shocks powerhouse Georgetown in tourney
PHILADELPHIA -- One is college basketball royalty, the other is a newborn, still often confused with a community college hundreds of miles away in its home state. Florida Gulf Coast University was established as a college only in 1991, on a tract of land halfway between the snowbird cities of Naples and Fort Myers in southwestern Florida -- this was seven years after the Patrick Ewing-era Georgetown Hoyas won their only national championship. FGCU began playing Division I basketball only six years ago, the same year that Georgetown went to its last Final Four. They are at opposite ends of the game's continuum.
None of that mattered Friday night in Philadelphia, where the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles -- and surely we need a shorter name for these sudden postseason stars -- became just the seventh No. 15 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to take down a No. 2 seed, defeating the Hoyas, an old-school powerhouse from the past (and present) Big East Conference. FGCU was known coming into the game for all its quirks: They are not only by far the youngest institution in the field (202 years younger than Georgetown), but also the only one with a coach (Andy Enfield) who founded -- and holds an equity share in -- a thriving startup company and the only one whose hometown regular (Eddie Murray), remembers when the campus was first being built and seeing wild boar and alligators on the grounds that would become the college.
Now they are something more. Friday night in Philadelphia the Eagles (surely an omen) played for a half like wouldn't exit without a fight (trailing, 24-22 at the break) and then for four spectacular minutes early in the second half like they could stay for the second weekend. Employing the same breakneck offensive and defensive style that took them to a 24-10 record of the Atlantic Sun conference, the Eagles went on a 21-2 tear that gave them a 52-33 lead with 12:30 remaining in the game and left Georgetown scrambling desperately for the rest of the night and most of the Wells Fargo Center crowd in full throat behind the upstarts.
Georgetown, which hasn't reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA since losing in the 2007 Final Four, frantically pulled within four points, 72-68, on a three-point basket by Markel Starks with 52.4 seconds to play, but never got closer. FGCU, playing with the cool of favorites, at one point made nine of 19 free throws to wrap up the win. And when it was finished, Eagles' sophomore point guard Brett Comer pumped his right fist and then simply handed the ball to an official, as there is more work to do. The Eagles play on Sunday in the round of 32 against the winner of Thursday's final game between Oklahoma and San Diego State.