It’s 8 o’clock on Wednesday, and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ flight has been delayed for the fifth time. Joe Dooley’s squad, which has been at the airport for four hours, has no idea when it would get to Lipscomb for its game on Thursday.
Tip-off is less than 24 hours away. It’s not an ideal travel schedule, but there’s no need to worry yet.
Finally, FGCU boards a plane and enjoys a relatively easy flight to Atlanta. Then, 14 of the team’s bags went missing. A good portion have still not turned up. So after getting in a bus and driving for three hours from Atlanta to Nashville, the team set out to buy new shoes, socks, and apparel for the players and coaches who needed it.
Finally the game started, and after fighting just to get to Allen Arena on time, the Eagles were tasked with taking down their toughest opponent in the ASUN this year. The Eagles’ offensive catalyst in the early minutes of the game was Michael Gilmore, one of the players whose shoes got lost in their airport debacle. After sinking 75 percent of his three-pointers, along with snagging six rebounds, Gilmore might actually want to considering keeping his new shoes.
The high-powered Lipscomb offense did finally take charge, and finished the first half with a 48-40 lead. The Bisons’ advantage got even larger once the second half began. When Lipscomb’s Greg Jones ended two straight possessions with buckets in the paint, the lead stretched to 18 points, 66-48. There was just over 13 minutes left in the game — still plenty of time — but this one felt all but over.
Then a strange thing happened. Lipscomb’s offense started to fall apart, and FGCU’s offense suddenly couldn’t miss. By the under-12 TV timeout, the Eagles got a couple of threes from Dinero Mercurius and Christian Carlyle to make it a 12-point game. The next couple of minutes was simply Brandon Goodwin showing why he’s the best player in the ASUN. As he does so well, Goodwin attacked the basket and either finished at the rim or found an open teammate.
Next thing you know, there’s still seven minutes to play and the game is deadlocked at 68. The Eagles had erased an 18-point deficit in the span of just over six minutes. Their run didn’t stop there. Big man Antravious Simmons had a bucket to put the Eagles on top. Then Zach Johnson hit a three from the corner, and Goodwin added in a couple scores of his own. With 3:05 left in regulation, Goodwin sunk a pair of free throws to make it an 81-70 Eagles lead. It was a 33-4 run.
A furious last-ditch effort from Lipscomb proved to be futile, and the Eagles walked out of Allen Arena winners. Thanks to a win by USC Upstate over Jacksonville, the Eagles now find themselves alone atop the ASUN standings with a 4-0 conference record. This loss drops the Bisons to a surprising 1-3 mark in ASUN play, but they are not out of the race for the ASUN’s NCAA Tournament bid, not by a long shot.
These two teams will play each other again on Feb. 17 when the Bisons visit Fort Myers, most likely in front of a sellout crowd.
The updates on FGCU’s travel mishaps are via FLorida Gulf Coast Communications Director Jason MacBain, and you can read the rather intriguing story from his thread on Twitter.
My personal favorite part of the whole ordeal — that FGCU was staying in the same hotel as Stetson, who was playing in Kennesaw, Georgia the same time the Eagles were taking the court in Nashville.