MACON, Ga. – Florida Gulf Coast's Brett Comer sank a three-pointer from the wing as the shot clock expired to prevent a late rally by USC Upstate as the Eagles dashed the hopes of an Atlantic Sun crown for the Spartans with a 71-61 victory Thursday night inside Mercer's University Center.
FGCU (14-16) cracked the scoring column first when Bernard Thompson turned a Torrey Craig (Great Falls, S.C.) turnover into a fast break dunk just 30 seconds into the contest.
The Spartans (20-12) tied the contest just 17 seconds later when Ricardo Glenn (Augusta, Ga.) scored on a put-back tip-in.
The Eagles broke a three minute scoring drought with a three-pointer by Filip Cvjeticanin with 16:14 left in the half. Cvjeticanin's triple sparked a 9-0 run for the Eagles over a span of 3:45.
Glenn ended Upstate's six-plus minute drought with a jumper in the paint with 12:58 to play in the half. The redshirt-sophomore's jumper sparked a 12-4 run that closed the gap to just one (15-14) with 9:38 to play. During the run, Glenn and Adrian Rodgers (Alpharetta, Ga.) added four each, while Craig and Fred Miller (Atlanta, Ga.) added two apiece.
After a 30-second timeout by FGCU, the Spartans scored the next six points of the contest to take a 20-15 lead with 5:47 showing on the clock. Craig sank a triple, while Ty Greene (Knoxville, Tenn.) sank a jumper and a free throw.
FGCU trimmed the Spartan lead to one (22-21) with exactly three minutes left in the opening half, but Upstate scored the final five points to take a 27-21 lead into the locker room at the break.
Rodgers paced the Spartans in the first 20 minutes with seven points off of the bench, while Cvjeticanin led FGCU with six points off of the Eagle bench.
FGCU opened the second half on a 9-0 to take a 30-27 just 1:32 into the final period
The two teams battled over the next three minutes before the Eagles regained the lead with 15:17. FGCU never relinquished the lead as the Eagles claimed the victory Thursday night.
The Eagles took a 13-point lead (53-40) with 8:38 to play before the Spartans made one final push for the victory.
The Spartans cut the deficit to five (62-57) on a Rodgers jumper with 2:15 to play. Upstate played solid defense on the next FGCU possession, but Comer sank a triple from the wing as the shot clock expired. Comer's three spelled the end of the Spartan comeback as FGCU claimed the 71-61 victory.
Rodgers led the Spartans with 16 points, while Glenn added 13 and grabbed eight rebounds.
The Eagles were paced by Christophe Varidel's 14 points.
FGCU, like Upstate, is in its first season of post-season eligibility and the Eagles will face the Mercer Bears Friday night at 8:30 in A-Sun semifinal action. The Spartans, meanwhile, will return to Spartanburg and play the waiting game to see if the club is awarded a post-season tournament berth.