FGCU set to defend “The Nest”

Comer leads FGCU with 5.4 assists a game. (Photo by Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports)
Comer leads FGCU with 5.4 assists a game. (Photo by Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports)

By Paul Gotham

The Atlantic Sun Championship opens tonight,  and FGCU’s Eagles hold the tournament’s top seed.   #DunkCity is ready to once again grab the March spotlight.

Like there ever was a doubt.

Brett Comer, Chase Fieler, Eric McKnight and Bernard Thompson return from the FGCU team which last year became the first 15-seed to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.

This time they have home-court advantage in their conference tournament.

Under first-year head Joe Dooley, FGCU finished 14-4 and claimed the first regular-season title in school history and the right to host each round of the championship.


Committing almost two fewer turnovers a game (12.7 this year as opposed to 14.6 in ’12-’13) FGCU has held opponents to 66.7 points (down from 67.5 a year ago). At the same, the Eagles improved from 73.8 points a game last year in Atlantic Sun play last to 75.9 in 2013-14.

“I wanted to get a shot every time down the floor,” Dooley said recently by phone. “To me if you shoot a high percentage and you don’t turn it over, you get a pretty good chance to win. I don’t care how we get the ball to guys just so long as we get the ball moving, and we get a good shot.”

FGCU hits 52.8 percent of their shots inside the arc and leads the conference with an Effective Field Goal Percentage (takes into consideration 2-pt. field goal percentage and 3-pt. percentage) of 52.6 percent.

“Those things give you a chance to win,” Dooley added.

FGCU will open against Stetson (7-23/5-13 A-Sun), a team which the Eagles beat twice this season. On January fifth, Eric McKnight scored 14 on 7-of-7 shooting en route to a 68-55 win. FGCU followed that with a 71-68 victory on January 31st.  FGCU leads the all-time series with the Hatters 9-6 , including 5-2 at Alico Arena. FGCU holds a rebound margin of +4.1 in Atlantic Sun play. Stetson finished -6.2 on the boards.

Comer and Thompson were both named to the Atlantic Sun’s First Team while Fieler earned second team.

Comer scores 14.2 a game and hands out 5.4 assists. The junior point guard has a pair of double-digit assist performances. Thompson scores 15 and grabs four rebounds a game. Fieler scores 13.8 and corrals 7.4 rebounds.

FGCU is 19-1 in their past 20 defending Alico Arena and 28-2 since the beginning of last season.

“I honestly believe that we have one of the best atmospheres in the southeast of America,” Fieler said.  “We’re a much different team at home.”

FGCU’s only loss at home this year was a 90-71 setback on December first to Iona, the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “It was very spirited – a great crowd with a lot of noise. Our guys played at a high level and enjoyed the atmosphere.”

Despite winning 14 conference games FGCU needed a little help in earning the number one seed for the tournament. Aid came in the form of USC Upstate knocking off East Tennessee State and giving FGCU the tiebreaker over Mercer.

“Obviously would have liked to have done things differently,” Fieler commented.  “Where we didn’t have to hope for another team to do something.”

Starting tonight, FGCU will have only themselves on which depend.

It’s another run for #DunkCity.

Tip time is 7 pm at Alico Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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