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Saturday could be Championship Saturday for FGCU men

Lee Herald Favicon 16The FGCU men’s basketball team could be the first team in the nation to clinch its conference’s regular season title on Saturday.

The Eagles(19-8, 10-0 ASUN) have a four-game lead over Lipscomb(16-9, 6-4) and Jacksonville(12-15, 6-4) with four games remaining in the regular season, as they prepare to take on last-place USC-Upstate(7-20, 2-8) on Saturday.

And they don’t even have to win.

If Lipscomb loses to North Florida, or if the Eagles win, they lock up their second straight Atlantic Sun regular season title, and homecourt advantage throughout the ASUN tournament next month.

But as the winning streak – now 12 overall – has grown, the conversation has remained the same around the Eagles: one game at a time.

“We don’t want to get complacent,” senior Brandon Goodwin said after a 68-62 win over Jacksonville on Jan. 27 had the Eagles at 7-0 in conference. “0-0, treat every day with the same intensity.”

When they rolled the Dolphins on the return leg, 80-55 on Feb. 3, Zach Johnson hardly entertained the notion that clinching this soon was possible.

“One game win streaks,” Johnson said. “Couple of hours and its over with. Onto the next.”

Here they are, though.

Saturday is, in all likelihood, the last time that FGCU will play in Spartanburg, as Upstate is leaving the ASUN after this season, but they’re probably hoping for nothing like last year’s game. Last year, the Eagles needed overtime to win after a shot to tie by Josh Cuthbertson went in apparently at the buzzer – or not, depending on which clock you looked at – and the backboard lights malfunctioned.

They had no such challenges in their last meeting, though. Behind 17 points from Johnson, the Eagles jumped out to a 38-17 halftime lead and were never threatened in a 75-58 win on Jan. 11.

Upstate still shoots a lot of threes(fourth in the nation in threes attempted), and they still also give up a lot of threes. And a lot of everything else too.

The Spartans are 351st – dead last in the nation – in points allowed per possession, according to basketball analytics service KenPom, and dead last in three-point defense. Upstate’s opponents shoot 43.1 percent from beyond the arc, and 56 percent on twos(336th in Division I). Add it all up, and it comes to an effective field goal percentage of 59.2 percent, 349th in the nation.

But they are coming off a win, a 91-79 win over similarly woeful Stetson. Deion Holmes had 34 points to lead the Spartans.

FGCU WOMEN NOT LOOKING FOR LETDOWN

The FGCU women’s basketball team learned last week what can happen if they look past an opponent.

Days after reaching the Top 25 in the Coaches’ Poll, the Eagles(22-4, 8-1 ASUN) were stunned by North Florida, 75-73 on Feb. 1. They rebounded by beating Jacksonville two days later, and beat those same Ospreys by 15 on Tuesday, but that loss still remains a cautionary tale.

“We’ve got to get with it, anything can happen at this point,” senior China Dow said. “We don’t want bad things to happen.”

Upstate(9-15, 4-5) comes off a pair of wins against Kennesaw State and Lipscomb. Tamera Thorpe is their leading scorer at 12.5 points per game.

The Eagles rolled Upstate on Jan. 15, 93-60 at home.

FGCU VS. USC-UPSTATE
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.(women), 4:00 p.m.(men)
G.B. Hodge Center, Spartanburg S.C.
Video: ESPN3

AT STAKE
The FGCU men clinch the ASUN title with a win, OR a Lipscomb loss.


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