Florida Gulf Coast controlled the pace and ultimately charged past No. 2 Georgetown. (Al Tielemans/SI)
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles didn't just beat the Georgetown Hoyas. They conquered them. Through the play of unheralded point guard Brett Comer, the No. 15 seed Eagles controlled the pace, choosing to make the game into a track meet and forcing Georgetown from its gameplan and identity.
All year in the Big East, Georgetown enforced its will on the league. The Hoyas kept the game slow, played suffocating defense in the half-court, and trusted their execution and their two stars, Markel Starks and Otto Porter, to carry them on the offensive end. Florida Gulf Coast took that gameplan and shredded it. By the end of the game, Georgetown didn't even resemble itself. In place of the methodical and powerful team that pushed the Big East around, was a sleek, guard-driven team dependent on its press. The Hoyas weren't just eliminated; the team as we knew them was dismantled.
Florida Gulf Coast guards Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson led the Eagles in scoring, but it was Brett Comer who controlled the game from the tip. After each Georgetown shot, make or miss, he pushed the ball, getting easy shots for his teammates. In the second half, that pressure broke Georgetown, as the Eagles rained in threes and dunks in a stunning display of superiority. They were the more aggressive, more athletic and more effective team.
Pushing the ball is often thought of as chaotic, but with Comer at the helm, the Eagles fastbreak was a thing of beauty. As Comer drove, his athletic big man, Chase Fieler, dove to the basket. Brown and Thompson ran with him, filling the lanes and spotting up for threes. They knew where they were supposed to go, the shots they were supposed to take, and played loose and confident while executing their system.
These flowing fastbreaks stood in stark contrast to the Hoyas, who looked almost handcuffed in their adherence to their half-court offense. That rigid style was no match for the free-flowing game of the Eagles. It was 2-seeded Georgetown that was forced to adjust, going with small lineups featuring little-used freshman Aaron Bowen, and dusting off a full-court press that rarely saw use all season. Gone was the composed, surgical unit that carved up the Big East. In its place was an uptempo squad that more resembled Pitino's old clubs from Kentucky than the Princeton and Georgetown teams coached by John Thompson III.
It's a testament to how completely the Eagles dominated this game that they forced Georgetown to radically alter its team, from its lineups, to its defense, to its core mentality, while not changing a bit themselves. They came into the game wanting to push the pace, and they stuck to their guns to the last moment, choosing to attack aggressively even as Georgetown cut into their lead. With two minutes left in the game, and Georgetown’s press creating turnovers, many teams would have held the ball and burned clock. Not Florida Gulf Coast. Breaking the pressure, Comer pushed hard, culminating in an alley-oop to big man Fieler with 1:54 left
. It was a reckless, risky play, but just like everything else Comer did on this historic night in Philadelphia, he was in complete control.