Florida Gulf Coast's Cinderella story continues in Phila.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the Philadelphia crowd was on its feet. It was a mix of awe and appreciation for what transpired during the previous two hours, when the best story - and most exciting show - of the NCAA tournament was on full display.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the Philadelphia crowd was on its feet. It was a show of awe and appreciation for what transpired during the previous two hours, when the best story - and most exciting show - of the NCAA tournament was on full display.
Florida Gulf Coast made history at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, becoming the first 15th seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Their 81-71 win over No. 7 San Diego State came two days after an upset of second-seeded Georgetown. They next play Florida in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.
"As everyone has seen, we're doing something special out here," said Eagles guard Sherwood Brown.
The Eagles were transformed over the weekend from an unknown Cinderella to a beloved extravaganza, with baskets reserved for highlight reels and assists more often found on playgrounds than NCAA tournaments.
Point guard Brett Comer was the conductor, swiveling passes to spaces that seemed both improbable and unoccupied. And then, out of nowhere would come a blue jersey. The Eagles were not modest about their exploits, either, with players on the court and bench erupting with demonstrative euphoria that the crowd adored.
"When we have that type of energy going, we're a hard team to beat," Comer said.
Comer finished with 10 points and 14 assists, while Bernard Thompson led the team with 23 points. Five players reached double figures.
A 17-0 run in the second half turned a 54-52 lead into a 71-52 lead, which was the point when the game raced out of control. Florida Gulf Coast trailed at halftime for the first time in 22 games when San Diego State carried a 35-34 lead into the break. But the highlight of the period was an Eagles alley-oop that outdid even the play from Friday night when Eric McKnight finished a Comer lob.
Brown called Fort Myers, Fla., where the school is located, "dunk city."
Forward Eddie Murray, Comer's roommate, joked that he's going to check whether Comer has eyes in the back of his head. McKnight laughed at the suggestion that the Eagles' dunks rivaled those in the NBA's slam-dunk contest.
But the Eagles did not win on theatrics alone. They used their fast-break style to create easy baskets in transition.
The story of the NCAA tournament happened right in front of Philadelphia's eyes. The Eagles arrived here as Fort Myers' team. On Friday night, they became Philadelphia's adopted team. By late Sunday night, they were America's team.
"I don't think it's really sunk in to any of us yet," Comer said. "I think maybe it will tomorrow."