"Ain't nobody gonna give us this game, so we gotta go and take it."
That was what Sherwood Brown said in pregame. It's not terribly original, but hearing it from your senior leader must have gotten FGCU fired up.
There's a saying in basketball, or sports in general, about "taking it to your opponent." They talk about taking charge of the game physically, imposing your will, and dictating the pace of the game. Be aggressive on defense, create turnovers, and get out in transition to establish your offensive rhythm.
Georgetown was supposed to be the team to do that, as the #2 seed facing a lowly #15 seed. Instead the Hoyas just stayed in their usual, Big East style halfcourt sets, and let the Eagles hang around the whole first half - something FGCU was willing to do.
To be fair, I think the Hoyas were surprised by their opponent's athleticism - as was I, though I was a little less surprised every time Florida Gulf Coast got out in transition for a massive alley-oop or an uncontested three-pointer. Brown, Chase Fieler, Eddie Murray - no, not that Eddie Murray - and Brett Comer all came to play, but it was sophomore Bernard Thompson who led the way early on and finished with 23 points.
The Eagles were the aggressor - Brown was the first Eagle to hit three fouls, and that was with six minutes left, at which point four Hoyas hat already reached or passed that point. Murray was throwing down put-back dunks with authority, and every member of the Eagles was playing all-out, fearless ball the whole game.
It also helped that Otto Porter never really found his groove for Georgetown. The team leader hit two of his first three shots, and then went 3-14 the rest of the game, even missing easy layups inside as the Hoyas confidence kept wavering throughout a 19-2 second half run by FGCU that gave them a 50-33 lead at one point.
The Hoyas briefly came to the realization that if they got aggressive on defense, they could get out in transition, and if they could turn the game into a track meet, they might just have an advantage that could get them back into the game. But again, with just about everybody in foul trouble, and the Hoyas only comfortable rolling eight deep with their usual rotation, that was short-lived.
A late Reggie Miller-esque three-steal-three sequence by the Hoyas' Jabril Trawick and Porter, along with some sturdy press defense with 2:47 left to play finally got the margin back to single digits at 64-57.
But the Eagles held tight, and the crowd that had gradually turned in FGCU's favor during the game absolutely leapt out of their seats when Fieler helped the "visiting" underdog beat the press with another highlight reel, one-handed alley-oop dunk.
But that wasn't all. Markel Starks found his range - a very, very deep range - from the top of the arc, and suddenly the Hoyas had cut the deficit to four at 72-68 with 51 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Hoyas, though, the Eagles did what they had to do and made most of their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
If you looked at the final box score, showing Brown's 24 points and 9 rebounds, Comer's 10 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists, or Fieler's 9 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, you would have thought that the Eagles were the #2 seed.
At the end of the game, with Brown shaking hands with Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore while his teammates drained free throws, it sure looked like it. But they just had the swag all game, and now they advance to face either San Diego State or Oklahoma.