Game #9-552: Florida Gulf Coast Eagles vs. Florida GatorsMarch 29, 2013 9:57 pm
We always tell ourselves "It always ends in a loss."
And while that has always been the case, I found myself sitting in my chair as the seconds ticked by thinking "Why tonight?!"
Why did I feel this way so strongly with this particular team. I never got this emotional even when Butler came within less than an inch of their 2009-10 season ending with a win. I wasn't this distraught when George Mason and VCU were finally bounced in the Final Four.
So why was I taking this loss so hard?
The obvious answer is that this Florida Gulf Coast team got to where they were by playing an incredibly entertaining style. The hashtag "#dunkcity
" was appropriate for this group. You just need to visit YouTube and search "dunk city" to see all of the spectacular plays this team was capable of making.
And it wasn't just dunks either. Point guard Brett Comer was constantly dangling the rock on a string like he was at Rucker Park. If a point guard for Tom Izzo or Roy Williams tried the things he tried, they'd find themselves on the bench faster than you can say "omgdunx".
This, I think, is why I fell so head over heels for this team. They stayed true to themselves throughout the tournament. The signature play for this Eagles team was an Ali Farokhmanesh-type moment when Comer served up an alley-oop to Chase Fieler with less than two minutes to play against 2-seed Georgetown. The Eagles were only up by 7, but that didn't stop them from playing fast and loose.
This is ultimately why I fell in love with this team and wanted to see them play one more game before it ended in a loss. They stayed true to themselves throughout the entire tournament. Lots of pundits were quick to point out that if ever there was a team built to shut down FGCU's high flying act, it was Florida. But then the Eagles got off to a 14-4 run to start the game; just 30 minutes after Michigan had erased a 9 point deficit late in the game to force overtime and defeated 1-seed Kansas. It was all setting up so perfectly. That run was punctuated by Brett Comer dishing a no look pass to a runner behind him that resulted in a 3 pointer.
The Eagles were going to prolong their final loss and they were going to do it with the same swagger and entertaining style they had carried throughout the first weekend. It's one thing for "Cinderella" to win like, say, Butler; with a tight defense and clutch, efficient shooting. These Eagles broke all the rules about being a "Cinderella". They made high risk, high reward decisions and they did it against all three of their tournament opponents: Georgetown, San Diego State, and Florida. They stayed true to themselves.
That same consistency could be found in their student section.
Of the four teams playing that night, FGCU had by far the most energetic and entertaining fan sections. Yes, Kansas had the numbers, but they didn't truly appreciate where they were the way FGCU's students did. They made some of the best signs I've seen from a college student section in quite some time. They made tons of noise. They became Michigan fans, even though the Wolverines were making them wait longer to see the team they had actually come to see. They kept it positive throughout the whole game, even when their Eagles were down by as much as 11.
They did quiet down as it became apparent their final loss was inevitable. But they all remained in their seats until the final buzzer. Some left, but only to get a good spot along the rail over the tunnel that the players would retreat to after the game. And after a brief moment of sadness as the final seconds ticked away, they exited the cavernous stadium with just as much energy and happiness as when they had first entered. They knew what they had just experienced and they weren't about to suddenly start crying like Kansas fans did after their season ended.
Plenty of fans will stay until the end of a game, but not many would remain as loud and happy as when the night began. Plenty of coaches of smaller schools would try to play smart and conventional in an effort to extend their run in the best postseason in all of sports. Few, if any outside of Andy Enfield, would continue to let their team play fast and loose on such a grand stage.
But that was Florida Gulf Coast for you. They didn't change a thing, even after the final whistle blew and their season ended. They stayed true to themselves and it was an incredibly refreshing thing to experience. One day I'll tell my kids and grandkids about George Mason in 2006, Butler in 2010 and 11, and VCU in 2011. Then I'll save the best for last. I'll tell them about "Dunk City" and how a group of people remained so genuine even in the face of a loss on the biggest stage.
I'll tell them about Florida Gulf Coast University.
FLORIDA 62, FLORIDA GULF COAST 50
FLORIDA GULF COAST 26-11 (13-5) -- S. Brown 7-13 0-2 14; C. Fieler 5-10 0-0 12; B. Comer 1-5 2-2 4; B. Thompson 2-7 1-2 6; E. McKnight 1-3 0-2 2; E. Murray 1-1 0-0 2; C. Varidel 3-5 3-3 10; D. Graf 0-0 0-0 0; F. Cvjeticanin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 6-11 50.
FLORIDA 29-7 (14-4) -- M. Rosario 6-14 1-2 15; S. Wilbekin 3-11 7-8 13; K. Boynton 2-6 3-4 7; P. Young 2-7 0-3 4; C. Prather 4-6 3-4 11; E. Murphy 2-7 0-0 4; W. Yeguete 1-3 0-2 2; M. Frazier II 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 22-57 14-23 62.
Three-point goals: FGCU 4-11 (S. Brown 0-2; C. Varidel 1-2; C. Fieler 2-4; B. Thompson 1-3), FLA 4-15 (M. Rosario 2-5; K. Boynton 0-3; E. Murphy 0-1; S. Wilbekin 0-3; M. Frazier II 2-3); Rebounds: FGCU 27 (S. Brown 6), FLA 30 (M. Rosario 5); Assists: FGCU 11 (B. Comer 7), FLA 12 (S. Wilbekin 3); Total Fouls -- FGCU 20, FLA 11; Fouled Out: FGCU-B. Thompson; FLA-None.
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