Schadrac Casimir had a pair of steal and score buckets in the final two minutes and Dinero Mercurius made two clutch steals in the closing seconds for the FGCU men’s basketball team as they rallied to beat South Dakoita State, 84-78 on Friday at Alico Arena.
For the second time in less than a week, the Eagles(2-2) were playing against a team that made the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Michigan State on Sunday, but on Friday erased an early 13-point deficit against the Jackrabbits(3-1) who were a No. 12 seed last season.
“Really proud of our team, I thought that was a gutty performance” head coach Michael Fly said. “We are young and haven’t played together a lot, so to fight back like that against a team like that, I think it shows our competitiveness and grit. We had a couple of veteran guys stepping up when we needed them. We are a strength in numbers team, we had a lot of guys contribute tonight.”
Christian Carlyle had 16 points for the Eagles, including tying the game at 72 on a free throw with 2:29 to go. Casimir gave the Eagles the lead for good just under a minute later on a fastbreak layup following a steal, and did it again 11 seconds later, giving the Eagles a two-possession lead with 1:25 left to play.
The Eagles would come up with two more stops in the closing seconds hanging onto an 80-78 lead, as Mercurius made a steal with 8 seconds left that sent him to the line where he hit a pair of free throws for the last of his 14 points, then stepped in front of a pass immediately after the inbound to score effectively the game ender with 5 seconds to go.
South Dakota State jumped out to a 26-13 lead midway through the first half, thanks in part to the one-two punch of three-point shooting of David Jenkins, and the scoring of NBA prospect Mike Daum, for whom several NBA scouts were in the building to see. Daum scored 18 for the Jackrabbits, while Jenkins led the team with 29 points.
But FGCU, who trailed 37-30 at the half, opened the second half on a 15-3 run to take the lead in a game which saw 17 lead changes and eight ties, and would never fall more than one possession behind the rest of the way.
The Eagles had four players in double figures, led by Haanif Cheatham who scored 23 points. Troy Baxter added 15 points.
WOMEN ROUT FIU
The FGCU women’s basketball team scored 34 points in the second quarter to blow Friday’s game against FIU wide open, rolling to a 100-58 at Alico Arena.
Four players scored in double figures for the Eagles(2-1), led by Keri Jewett-Giles with 18 points, with the Dunbar grad leading the team for the second straight game. Chandler Ryan scored 12 points, while Tanner Bryant and Nasrin Ulel scored 11 each in a game where only Ryan played more than 20 minutes.
“I liked the intensity and the pace we played with,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “We’re incorporating a lot of new players, and we’re a team that likes to be precise in what we do, and this has taken some time. I thought we took a good step forward today.”
FGCU led by 12 after the first quarter, and after scoring 34 points in the second led 58-28 at halftime. The Eagles shot 54 percent from the field and hit 14 threes.
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