WACO — Florida Gulf Coast came out firing on all cylinders against Baylor on Friday night, and it was almost enough to pull of a massive upset. Ultimately, the Bears prevailed, 81-72.
With Marc-Eddy Norelia, FGCU’s all-time leading scorer, still sidelined with a broken hand, coach Joe Dooley was forced to rely on perimeter shooting to propel his offense.
“We talked to our guys about how we’ll take what they give us,” Dooley said. “They pushed in, they sort of crowded the inside a little bit.”
Junior guard Christian Terrell was forced to come off the bench for the first time this season after being pulled from the starting lineup. He responded by coming out red-hot, hitting three three-pointers in a two-minute span in the first half. His hot start was cut short when he was forced to sit for the final 5:56 of the first half after picking up his second foul. The Eagles were noticeably out of sorts after Terrell went to the bench.
“Christian got into a good rhythm and made some shots. We got the ball moving, especially against the zone,” Dooley said. “When he came out, we just tried to be safe because we figured they would try to go into the post on him again, and we didn’t want him to pick up a third (foul) there in the first half.” Foul trouble plagued the Eagles all night as they allowed Baylor to get to the free-throw line 31 times.
Terrell wasted no time picking up where he left off after the break, hitting another three-pointer 37 seconds into the second half that sparked a 16-6 run for the Eagles and brought them to within two points.
Junior Brandon Goodwin, who transferred from UCF prior to last season, followed up his 24-point outing against UT Arlington on Wednesday with another strong performance. He finished with 22 points shooting 7-15 from the field, 3-7 from beyond the arc and 5-5 from the free throw line. Goodwin and forward Antravious Simmons were the only two Eagles who were really able to score in the paint against Baylor’s big front line of Joe Lual-Acuil and Johnathan Motley.
Four Eagles finished in double figures as Zach Johnson tallied 17 points and Antravious Simmons chipped in 10. FGCU shot a combined 10-19 from three and 26-55 from the field overall.
After trailing by 10 at halftime, the Eagles came storming back behind a barrage of three-pointers to open the second half. A Zach Johnson tip-in brought FGCU to within one point with 2:41 remaining in the game before Baylor went on a 13-5 run to close the game.
Despite running out of gas down the stretch, Eagles fans should be encouraged by the way their team performed Friday night. FGCU shot 52.6 percent from three while holding Baylor to just 23.5 percent. They took a Baylor team that dominated No. 4 Oregon earlier in the week down to the wire on the road with a tough crowd. They got solid production from their backcourt, and Simmons made some superb plays in the low post. Look for this team to be a dangerous combination of slashing and shooting once Norelia returns from injury.
Dooley and company do not have time to dwell on the upset that could have been as they travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on Sunday.