Fans from all over the world were ready to watch Hartford take on Florida Gulf Coast in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Even the Aussies -- Corban Wroe, Taylor Dyson and Dougal Weir all come from the land down under -- had a chance to catch a peek at the Hawks, one of the rare chances to see the team not only nationally, but internationally.
But those fans were left wanting for a win, after a dominant second half by Chase Fieler led Florida Gulf Coast over Hartford, 65-51.
Hartford managed to hang with the team that became the talk of the nation last season through the first half and at times drew praise that seemed reminiscent of the kind that the Eagles grabbed during their NCAA Tournament run. Mark Nwakamma was called "unstoppable" and "explosive" on his way to a dominating performance in his own right, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Even Yolonzo Moore pounded home the first dunk of the game. Perhaps Dunk City had lost its title.
Until the second half.
The Hawks seemed to be stuck in a time warp during the final 20 minutes, back to the team that went 0-12 before finally cracking into the win column during 2011-2.
The second half was missing the scoring and defense that Hartford had kept up earlier in the game, mimicking its recent loss against Quinnipiac. The more the Hawks fell behind, the more rattled they got, leading to sloppy plays and turnovers.
One pass made its way straight into the hands of Chase Fieler, which he then did what he does best: dunk. Fieler must have had his cup of coffee during halftime since he scored 20 points in the second half alone, nearly equaling what the Hawks put up as a team (25 after the half).
Dunk City was back and there was no stopping it.
Add Fieler's ability to shoot from all over to the energy from the packed arena and you have a recipe for the Eagles' first win. He scored a career-high 30 points, seeming to be anywhere the ball was. There's already a YouTube compilation video of his impressive single-handed come back.
While the Eagles have their chance to celebrate their win, the Hawks don't have much time to dwell on their loss. Their next game is in less than 36 hours, against the Fairfield Stags at the Webster Bank Arena. But it seems that's what Coach Gallagher wants:
"I told my staff, any time I get a chance to go back-to-back ... I'm doing it twice this year on purpose," coach John Gallagher said. "Realistically, we're in a one-bid league. And when you're in a one-bid league, half the country puts on TV in March just to see that. So you want to be ready." (ESPN.com)
Going into their third game at 0-2 is a bit daunting. One can only hope the losses won't break them down like two years ago. There are high hopes for Hartford since they're coming off their best season in years, even making post-season play, and there's nothing more discouraging than a nice zero under the win column.