A missed free throw with 2.4 seconds left proved to be the difference for the FGCU men’s basketball team on Saturday against Middle Tennessee State.
Trailing 77-74, Brandon Goodwin was fouled on a three-point attempt. Goodwin hit the first two at the line, but missed on the third, and Middle Tennessee held on to win, 81-76 at Alico Arena.
“I thought it was in,” Goodwin said. “I did the same routine I did the last two times and tried to follow through, it went in and out. It’s one of those things you can’t control, just have to keep working in practice at free throws.”
Goodwin had a season high 26 points for the Eagles, 20 of them in the second half as FGCU rallied back from trailing by as many as 16 midway through the second half.
Trailing 60-44 with 11:58 remaining, Goodwin scored 10 in a row for the Eagles, keying a 19-5 run over the 6:32 to cut the deficit all the way to 65-63 after a pair of free throws from Christian Carlyle. Carlyle had a season-high 18 points in his first game in the starting lineup since the season opener against Illinois State.
“He’s made big leaps and bounds, we all saw it in the preseason,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley said of Carlyle. “He just needs to keep playing with confidence. We think the sky is the limit for him.”
But while the Eagles got close, they couldn’t quite make it all the way back, twice cutting the gap to one. Nick King was a house for the Blue Raiders, putting up 32 points and 11 rebounds including a key putback with 1:48 to go to make it 73-69.
“We dug ourselves out of a hole, then we dug ourselves back into a hole,” Dooley said. “We’ve got to eliminate those kind of deals especially when we’re small. We’ve got to learn to group rebound the ball. That’s going to be something really important for us.”
In their first meeting in November, Middle Tennessee dominated the Eagles, but Saturday’s game, while closer still had many of the same issues. The Blue Raiders had a 42-28 edge on rebounds, including 15-7 on the offensive end over the short-handed Eagles, playing without center Ricky Doyle, who was out with back spasms. RaySean Scott was also limited as he recovered from an illness, playing just 10 minutes. Combined with freshman Brian Thomas’ broken hand, the Eagles were severely undermanned in the front-court.
“No one cares,” Dooley said about the team’s short-handed status. “Who plays doesn’t mean [anything], Middle Tennessee State doesn’t care. We’ve got five guys and those five guys have to rebound the ball. It makes us a little thinner, but the reality is no one really cares.”
Still, the Eagles were just a free throw away from potentially forcing overtime. After the game, Eagles coach Joe Dooley expressed confidence in his point guard.
“It’s not one shot or one play,” Dooley said. “We wouldn’t have been in the position to be in the game if he hadn’t made so many plays. If it happens again, I’ll want him to be on the line again. He’ll make them.”
LATE-GAME FREE THROWS
Since becoming eligible at the start of last season, Goodwin has been in position for multiple pivotal moments for FGCU, including a very similar situation to the end of Saturday’s game.
On Jan. 7, 2017, trailing Stetson by two, Goodwin drew a foul just before the buzzer while 30 feet from the basket, and hit all three at the line to steal the game for the Eagles, 89-88.
Saturday didn’t have the same result, but the senior isn’t dwelling on the loss.
“We’ll bounce back, we’ll be alright,” Goodwin said. “Coach is going to put us in a spot to succeed. We’ve got to put this one behind us and keep moving forward.”
vs. FAU, Tuesday
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