A chance to tie the game by Christian Terrell with 26 seconds left came up short, and for the first time in two years, the FGCU men’s basketball team has lost back-to-back home games.
Justin Massey had 21 points, including 17 in the second half as Florida Atlantic held on to beat FGCU, 92-88 in Alico Arena on Tuesday.
“Give up 58 points in the second half in your building, give up 56 percent from the floor, 43 from the three and you’re going to lose. And that’s what we did,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley said. “We scored more than enough parts – we’ve got a lot of work to do. The clock’s ticking.”
Payton Hulsey, who had 19 points for the Owls, hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 60 with 11:45 to go, setting off a wild stretch with both sides trading buckets back and forth with neither team pulling ahead by more than a single possession for more than a single possession until a seven-point spurt bookended by a pair of threes from Massey gave FAU a 76-69 lead.
The Eagles(6-4) responded with a quick spurt of their own, and eventually retook the lead at 82-81 after a three from Christian Terrell with 4:31 left to play. But Massey hit a free throw to take the lead for good at 83-82 with 3:10 left, and a three with 1:33 to go made it 90-85.
A runner from Brandon Goodwin closed the gap to 90-88, the last of his team-high 23 points, the Eagles had a chance to tie or take the lead after an FAU turnover with 36 seconds to go. Johnson drove into the lane and dished to Ricky Doyle in front of the basket, but rather than take the short range shot, Doyle passed out of it, and Terrell’s shot from 15 feet bounced off the front iron no good.
“I’m surprised with our effort and our focus throughout the game,” Terrell said. “To be quite honest, we suck right now. Our defense is not where it needs to be and that’s affecting our offense just as much as anything.”
FGCU once led the game 36-23 in the first half after a 13-0 run, and carried an 11-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
“I think that was our problem. We looked good and just got comfortable,” Goodwin said. “We can’t get comfortable with any team in the nation. That’s one of the things we have to improve is finishing the game.”
The Owls(5-3) shot 56 percent from the field in the second half, and appeared to be able to score at will, either by drives from Hulsey, close range finished from Delph(19 points), or open threes from Massey.
“My first year in coaching, there’s all these theories and I heard a great halftime adjustment – guard your man,” Dooley said. “That’s what we need to do. Man or zone you need to guard your man.”
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
Forward play has been an ongoing problem for the Eagles this season.
Antravious Simmons had a monster first half for the Eagles, with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and six rebounds. Simmons saw repeated success in the low post, backing down defenders to finish with baby hooks or off the glass from the block. But he was largely neutralized in the second half, saddled by fouls and eventually leaving the game after fouling out with 3:10 remaining.
“The thing to me is the fouls we get aren’t aggressive fouls they’re little tic-tac fouls. If you’re going to foul blocking a shot I can live with it, but we reach in and foul on plays that are irrelevant to the game,” Dooley said.
They didn’t get much else out of any of the other forwards. Doyle had three points and five rebounds, going 1-of-3 from both the field and the line, Raysean Scott, limited by illness, had four points in 14 minutes, and Brady Ernst, given the start for the first time this year, missed a putback attempt just under two minutes into the game and was quickly benched, never to be seen again.
The last time the Eagles lost two in a row at home was nearly two years ago, dropping 56-52 to South Dakota State on Dec. 19, 2015, and to Louisiana Tech 66-63 on Dec. 22. 36 games have passed in between those two skids.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
25 – FAU had 25 second chance points on Tuesday, the most FGCU has allowed in a season.
5 – FGCU players in double figures: Goodwin(23 pts, 11 rebs), Terrell(14 pts), Simmons(13 pts), Dinero Mercurius(13 pts), and Zach Johnson(12 pts).
92 – Points allowed Tuesday. The last time FGCU gave up more than 90 points in a game was against Lipscomb, in a 91-75 loss on Jan. 21, 2016, 57 games ago. The last time it was over 92 was 75 games ago against Youngstown State in a 104-101 triple overtime win on Nov. 21, 2015.
at UT-Arlington, Saturday
Oral Roberts, Saturday, Dec. 16
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