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Florida Gulf Coast shocks Georgetown

PHILADELPHIA — Florida Gulf Coast sure made an entrance at the NCAA Tournament.

A No. 15 seed that hasn't even celebrated its first 20-year reunion busted a load of brackets with a 78-68 victory against No. 2 seed Georgetown on Friday night in the South Region.

In just their second season of eligibility for the Division I postseason, the Eagles (25-10) went on a 21-2 second-half run, then held on to become just the seventh No. 15 to beat a No. 2. (None have advanced to the Sweet 16.)

Sherwood Brown scored 24 and Bernard Thompson 23 for the Atlantic Sun champs.

"We didn't come here and have the attitude that we're just glad to be here," said FGCU point guard Brett Comer, who had 12 points, 10 assists and just two turnovers. "We decided we can play with anybody."

A night after America's oldest university, Harvard, pulled off an upset of No. 4 seed New Mexico, one of its youngest — FGCU's first student was admitted in 1997 — pulled off one even bigger.

The monster run made it 52-33 with 12:28 left. The Hoyas cut it to 72-68 with 52 seconds left. But the Eagles went 6-of-10 from the free-throw line to seal it.

"In the second half, we pushed the ball," Eagles coach Andy Enfield said. "We got out. We ran. We made shots, got some alley-oop dunks to energize the crowd. I'm very proud of our players."

For those who don't know FGCU — and that was probably a lot as of Friday afternoon — it is a state university in Estero near Fort Myers with an enrollment of 13,468. This is FGCU's first tournament and Georgetown's 29th, including the 1984 national title. (The Eagles did beat Miami earlier this season, though).

It was another early NCAA exit for the Hoyas (25-7), who have lost to a double-digit seed in their past four appearances. The last time they reached the second weekend of the tournament was in 2007, when they reached the Final Four. Coach John Thompson III said he can't figure it out.

"I wish I could," he said. "Trust me. More than anyone on earth, I've tried to analyze it. I don't know."

Markel Starks scored 23 for the Hoyas, who shared the Big East regular-season title and lost in the final of the conference tournament. They entered allowing 55.7 points per game. FGCU matched that with 9:22 to play when it took a 57-40 lead. The Hoyas allowed opponents to shoot 37.6 percent from the field, fourth-best in the country. The Eagles shot 42.9 percent (21-of-49).

The FGCU fans who made the trip to Philadelphia were loud all game. The rest of the crowd at the 21,600-seat Wells Fargo Center joined them during the big run. And there's nothing to bring fans together like rooting against a heavy favorite.

"I don't think anybody on our team has ever played in front of that many people," said reserve forward Eddie Murray, who scored nine points.

The Eagles charged at their fans when the game ended and — after some of them shook hands with Hall of Famer and TV analyst Reggie Miller — started the celebration.

Otto Porter, the Big East player of the year, had 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting and 11 rebounds. That couldn't compare to Brown, the Atlantic Sun's player of the year.

"It feels really good to be in this position right now," Brown said. "No one had given us anything. It means that much more that we had to go out there and earn it, take what we feel was ours."

As the night wound down, one fan yelled at the Eagles to stick around Philly for a couple of more days: "Get a cheese steak, kid! Get a cheese steak!"

The crowd then paid FGCU a tribute: E-A-G-L-E-S! Eagles! the chant reserved for its NFL team.

"I told our team before the game that Georgetown is ranked eighth in the country," Enfield said. "But after you get out on the court for two or three minutes, you'll realize that you're just as good, if not better, than this team. And we did that. We didn't play great in the first half, but we realized, 'Hey, if we play, we can win this game.' "

Tar Heels give coach a milestone victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — P.J. Hairston scored 23 and North Carolina unleashed a flurry of 3s to beat Villanova 78-71.

It marked coach Roy Williams' 700th victory.

The No. 9 seed Wildcats erased a 20-point deficit No. 8 seed North Carolina built in the first half. Then they nearly climbed out of a nine-point hole in the final minutes.

Villanova (20-14) entered having allowed 222 3-pointers, and their opponents' 36.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers ranked 295th among 345 Division I teams. North Carolina (25-10) took advantage, making 11 of 21. It led 32-12 with seven minutes left in the first half and 67-59 with 3:03 left.

Two free throws by Ryan Arcidiacono, James Bell's 3-pointer and JayVaughn Pinkston's two free throws cut it to 67-66. But Marcus Paige made a 3-pointer and Hairston completed a three-point play to seal it.

Florida Gulf Coast shocks Georgetown 03/22/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 23, 2013 8:57am]
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