Coming into Thursday night’s game at Alico Arena, Florida Gulf Coast was red hot. They had won 13 games in a row, and boasted an 11-0 record in Atlantic Sun play. In fact, the Eagles had not lost a game in the calendar year of 2018.
A 14th straight victory seemed very likely, especially given the fact that they were playing against Kennesaw State, which brings up an even more impressive winning streak. FGCU had defeated Kennesaw State 15 straight times. The last time that Kennesaw State beat Florida Gulf Coast was on February 10th, 2011.
Nevertheless, this Kennesaw State team came into Alico Arena on a hot streak of their own. The Owls had won three consecutive games, their only winning streak of the entire season. However, they still only had one road win for the whole year, but what better place to prove yourself then the ASUN’s toughest arena to play in?
From the opening tip, Kennesaw State controlled the tempo of the game. They were able to successfully slow down their offense, utilizing several ball screens on each possession and bleeding the shot clock down to get a good shot. When they wanted to move quickly, which didn’t happen very often, they did so successfully.
The Owls’ ball movement was excellent in the first half, exemplified by this James Scott three-pointer to give Kennesaw State a ten point lead before halftime.
Early in the second half, the Owls continued to distance themselves from the Eagles, at one point pushing their lead to 15 points. They led 63-48 with just over 12 minutes to play. But the Eagles were not going to go away that easily. They responded quickly and decisively, and by the 10 minute mark, the score was 63-60.
Down the stretch, the Owls went to their best offensive players: Nick Masterson and James Scott. They did not disappoint. Both players would finish with 27 points.
The final couple of minutes of the second half was where things got a little bit crazy.
The Eagles cut the lead to five with 2:47 remaining in regulation. Kennesaw State came down the floor and James Scott made an acrobatic layup to push the lead to seven. Seconds later, Tyler Hooker stole an errant FGCU pass and went coast-to-coast to make it a nine point Owls lead with 2:05 left to play.
The Owls weren’t in the clear yet, though. The two teams traded buckets a few times until Brandon Goodwin cut the deficit to four with 49 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, Nick Masterson turned the ball over. Right away, FGCU went to Christian Terrell and he drained a three to make it an 89-88 game.
It remained a one point Owls lead with 32 seconds to play, and Kennesaw State had possession. Nick Masterson then threw a horrible inbounds pass from underneath his own basket, and it was stolen by Brandon Goodwin at halfcourt. However, Goodwin’s momentum took him out of bounds, and he had no teammates nearby to pass it to, so he ended up turning it over.
The Owls had the ball next to their own bench, and they got it to Tyler Hooker, who was fouled. Hooker made the first and missed the second. FGCU came down the floor quickly. One Brandon Goodwin dunk later, and suddenly the game is tied. The Eagles continued to press full-court, which may have ended up costing them the game, because Kyle Clark got behind the defense and scored with 15 seconds remaining.
Down 94-92 with 13 seconds remaining, FGCU’s Zach Johnson drove to the hoop and got fouled. Johnson, a 77% free throw shooter, hit the first and missed the second. Nick Masterson got sent to the free throw line at the opposite end of the court, and he missed the first before hitting his second shot.
95-93 with two seconds on the clock. FGCU had it under their own basket with their Christian Laettner play all ready to go. Their inbounds pass was picked off however, and it was the Owls who celebrated a win in Fort Myers for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
This was a huge win for Kennesaw State, who now has a conference record of 6-6, putting them in a four-way tie for third place in the ASUN. It is very possible that they could have a home game for the first round of the upcoming ASUN Tournament.
As for the Eagles, they already clinched the 1st seed in the ASUN Tournament, but their dreams of extending their 13 game winning streak all the way into the NCAA tournament are gone.