SAN DIEGO – March 24, 2013 – Even if you’re a San Diego State University fan like this writer, you have to love the improbably Cinderella run by the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles in their NCAA tournament debut.
In only their second season of even being eligible to enter the NCAA tournament, the Florida GCU Eagles had little trouble knocking off the Aztecs, 81-71. It was a historic win. Florida GCU becomes the first 15th seed to make the Sweet 16 round in NCAA tournament history.
Florida GCU (25-10) will now play for Florida pride as well as the chance to make history again by getting to the Elite 8. The Eagles take on the Florida Gators, who beat Minnesota with little trouble, 78-64.
Florida Gulf Coast was even more impressive against the Aztecs than the team was in beating Georgetown two nights ago. The Eagles did it with the same sense ‘what have we got to lose?’ attitude, finding a way to get around the strong defense of San Diego State.
“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.”
Florida will be a far more formidable challenge next Friday night in the South Regional semifinal in Dallas.
Bernard Thompson had 23 points and Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Sherwood Brown added 17 for Florida GCU in just its second season being eligible for postseason play.
In its first-ever NCAA tournament upset win over No. 2 Georgetown, the Eagles took control of with a 21-2 run in the second half. They repeated the feat against the Aztecs, this time with 17 unanswered point, eight of the first 10 by Brown. Out of nowhere, what had been a close game was 71-52 with 4:19 to play. The only goal left was for the Aztecs to bring the score a little closer so as not to embarrass themselves and their fans.
After at least one basket, Brown waggled his tongue Michael Jordan style as he ran up court. And who could blame this exuberant personality from enjoying the inevitable victory? Fans in Philadelphia celebrated with Florida GCU, making it a virtual home court advantage for the Eagles against the Aztecs.
Jamaal Franklin had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Aztecs (23-11), who were trying to reach the regional semifinals for the second time in three years on their well-respect coach Steve Fisher’s 68th birthday.
The Eagles shot 55.9 percent for the game (33 of 59), including going 7 of 18 from 3-point range. The Aztecs finished at 44.3 percent (27 of 61) and were 8 of 23 from beyond the arc.
Florida GCU had one of its highlight plays in the first half when a flying Eric McKnight grabbed a pass from Brett Comer for a one-hand jam with 8:50 to play that woke up the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, and fans in front of their TVs across the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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