PHILADELPHIA – Florida Gulf Coast went from shocking the college basketball world to downright impressing it. And the Eagles were smiling the whole time.
Playing loose and easy, little-known FCGU beat San Diego State 81-71 Sunday to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield, whose players tossed him in the air and poured water on him in raucous celebration before his postgame interviews. “We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.
“Our goal was to make history and we did it.”
The next opponent for the upstart state school will be the main campus, third-seeded Florida, on Friday night in the South Regional semifinal in Dallas.
“We tried to scrimmage them early in the season in the preseason, now we get our shot,” Enfield said.
Bernard Thompson had 23 points and Sherwood Brown added 17 for FGCU, the 16-year-old school in just its second season being eligible for postseason play.
In its first-ever NCAA tournament game on Friday, the Atlantic Sun champion busted brackets everywhere with an upset win over No. 2 Georgetown, a game the Eagles took control of with a 21-2 run in the second half.
It went much the same way against San Diego State.
This time the run was 17-0 and Brown, who was saddled early in the second half with foul trouble, had eight of the first 10 points of it. When it was over the Eagles led 71-52 with 4:19 to play and the only decisions left were how the players and fans were going to celebrate.
After at least one basket, Brown opened his mouth and waggled his tongue at FCGU as he ran up court.
And after the game, the whole team joined in a bird dance that the players on the bench.
On the court, FCGU played like it had nothing to lose. And really, the Eagles didn’t. Given their school’s short history, nobody expected them to win a game at the NCAA tournament, let alone two.
Brett Comer, who didn’t have as many lob passes for dunks as he did against the Hoyas, finished with 10 points and 14 assists, some of which resulted in dunks that had the crowd cheering and wanting more.
Ohio State 78, Iowa State 75:
Aaron Craft made a last-second, tie-breaking 3-pointer and Ohio State remained the lone high seed left in the most-busted bracket.
Ohio State (28-7) needed Craft’s only 3-pointer of the game – an arching shot over 6-7 defender Georges Niang from the top of the key – to avoid yet another upset in the oh-so-wild West Regional. Four of the top five seeds fell fast and hard in the first weekend.
Craft left the Buckeyes in position to fritter away a late lead with some missed free throws, then saved them in the final second.
Craft also drew a charge on Iowa State’s Will Clyburn near the basket with 1:41 on a play that could have put the Cyclones up by three. It was a close call. Replays showed Craft’s right heel was at the semicircle restricting the area where players can take a charge.
Indiana 58, Temple 52:
On the verge of being the second No. 1 knocked from the tournament, Indiana finally stopped Temple’s No. 1.
Victor Oladipo hit a key 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and the top-seeded Hoosiers, their season moments from ending in disappointment, shut down Owls star Khalif Wyatt in the final three minutes to hold off the Owls.
The Hoosiers (29-6) trailed by four with 2:56 left, but closed with a 10-0 run and advanced to the round of 16 for the second straight year.
Indiana will play No. 4 seed Syracuse in the regional semifinals Thursday in Washington.
Wyatt scored 31 points to lead the Owls (24-10), who gave one of the Big Ten’s big boys all they could handle before collapsing when it mattered most.
Kansas 70, North Carolina 58:
Behind the impassioned play of Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, the top-seeded Jayhawks shook themselves out of a first-half slumber and blitzed No. 8 seed North Carolina down the stretch.
Withey had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Releford finished with 22 points for the Jayhawks (31-5), who also knocked former coach Roy Williams’ team out of the NCAA tournament during their 2008 title run and again last season, when Kansas marched all the way to the Final Four.
P.J. Hairston scored 15 points and James Michael McAdoo finished with 11 for the Tar Heels (25-11).
Florida 78, Minnesota 64:
Mike Rosario scored 25 points and Florida used an overpowering first half to roll past Minnesota and into the round of 16 for third consecutive year.
The No. 3 seed Gators (28-7) shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half and led by 21 by halftime. The win earns Florida a return trip to the Lone Star State to play their next game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Andre Hollins scored 25 points to lead the No. 11-seed Gophers (21-13).