Oklahoma State took 41 free throws, and that ultimately told the tale.
The Cowboys earned 32 of their points from the line on Tuesday, en route to beating the FGCU men’s basketball team 80-68 in the first round of the NIT in Stillwater, Okla.
Trailing by 17, 60-43 to open the fourth quarter – the NIT was using quarters as one of several experimental rules in place for the tournament – FGCU(23-12) had one final run in them.
Antravious Simmons opened the fourth with a layup, then Michael Gilmore dunked home a pass from Christian Terrell. On the ensuing inbound, the same press which the Eagles used to erase a huge deficit in the Atlantic Sun final caused a quick turnover which led to a Zach Johnson three, cutting the gap to 60-50 in just 40 seconds.
“Compliment our guys for not folding, which they didn’t do all year,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley said. “We were down and put ourselves in bad situations, but they fought back out of it like they usually do.”
Johnson would hit another three, followed by one from Gilmore, capping off a 13-2 run that saw the Eagles get within six, 62-56 with 7:04 to play.
They would get no closer.
Oklahoma State(20-14) hit four of five free throws – they took 21 in the fourth quarter alone – and Jeffrey Carroll hit a layup to push the lead back to 12 with 5:22 to go, and it stayed in double figures most of the rest of the way. Carroll led the Cowboys with 18 points, 12 of them came at the line.
FGCU opened the game with a Johnson dunk, but the buckets were few and far between for much of the first half after that. The junior led the Eagles with 23 points.
Oklahoma State led 37-26 at the half, a gap only made closer by a halfcourt shot from Brandon Goodwin at the buzzer. It would be the only three-pointer the senior made all night, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-20 shooting in his final game.
“They play hard. Their coach put them in a good position to keep our perimeter guys out of the lane,” Goodwin said. “It was tough to get shots up.”
Now the speculation begins as to the future of the Eagles, and their coach. Dooley has been linked to multiple jobs in the last week, including having his name in consideration at UTEP, Missouri State, and East Carolina.
On Tuesday, though, Dooley talked about what he thinks the future holds at FGCU.
“I like our situation. We’ve got a good team, a lot of good guys,” Dooley said. “We’ll go back, regroup and try to be good again next year.”
The Eagles will also lose three seniors from their rotation, Goodwin, third-leading scorer Christian Terrell, and Simmons, who started 20 games at center this season.
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