Tiny Dancers: Florida Gulf Coast

Sherwood Brown and Florida Gulf Coast are the NCAA tournament's first automatic bid. (USATSI)
Sherwood Brown and Florida Gulf Coast are the NCAA tournament's first automatic bid. (USATSI)

Florida Gulf Coast led Belmont at halftime of last season’s Atlantic Sun championship game -- but a second-half run by the Bruins put the NCAA tournament of reach for FGCU.

They made sure that didn’t happen this season.

An 11-2 run to start the second half extended a two-point lead to 11, and the Eagles never looked back en route to an 88-75 win over top-seeded Mercer on Saturday. Brett Comer (top-20 nationally in assists) led the way with 21 points and five assists for the Eagles.

Florida Gulf Coast has only been eligible for Division-I postseason play for the past two seasons, and coach Andy Enfield has led the team to a title game appearance in both seasons. After the team tripped to the Bahamas in the offseason, Enfield said they were using last year’s loss as motivation.

“It gave our players confidence going into the offseason, and it gave them a sense of pride and excitement for the future,” Enfield said over the summer.

Florida Gulf Coast knocked off Miami earlier this season, and has won 12 of its last 14 games. One fact to note: The Eagles have led at halftime in 20 straight games.

Players to know: Bernard Thompson and Sherwood Brown. The Eagles’ backcourt duo is what gets them going. Brown leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and he’s capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Thompson is fifth nationally in steals per game, but he’s also scored in double-figures in nine straight games.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-10 overall, 13-5 in Atlantic Sun
  • Most recent tournament appearance: N/A
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 137
  • Sagarin ranking: 140
  • RPI: 103
  • Best wins: Miami, Loyola (Md.)
  • Worst losses: Maine, East Tennessee State
  • Notable stat: The Eagles are at their best when they are forcing turnovers and getting transition baskets at the rim. They rank in the top-20 nationally in steals, and No. 25 in steal percentage. Moreover, they shoot better than 52 percent on 2-pointers.

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