PHILADELPHIA — College basketball, meet Florida Gulf Coast.
A school so new it wasn’t eligible for the NCAA tournament until last year busted a load of brackets Friday night.
With 24 points from Sherwood Brown and a healthy dose of swagger, FGCU upset second-seeded Georgetown 78-68 in the second round of the South Regional.
"This is our first time being in the NCAA tournament. To actually go out there and win that first game, it means something really special to us," said Brown, who was the first of the players to head toward the Florida Gulf Coast cheering section with several seconds still on the clock.
The Eagles used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas and then held on in the final minute to become just the seventh No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling. We played a very tough team in Georgetown. They have great players. They’re a historic school," forward Chase Fieler said. "So being a newer school it’s very exciting for us to be able to win a game like that and for the NCAA history. That’s exciting and impressive to be a part of that."
Bernard Thompson had 23 points for Florida Gulf Coast, the champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
FGCU (25-10) will play seventh-seeded San Diego State, which beat No. 10 seed Oklahoma 70-55, in the third round on Sunday.
"We decided we can play with anybody and we did," said FGCU point guard Brett Comer, who finished with 12 points,10 assists and just two turnovers.
Comer was part of a play late in the game that almost brought down the house, throwing an alley-oop pass from the corner that Fieler grabbed and threw down with a one-handed dunk.
"Nothing special. It’s something me and him have done this year," Comer said. "We knew what was going to happen there. Time and place didn’t matter. I knew he’d catch it. You saw the result. The whole place went nuts and we really got the momentum from there."
Said Fieler: "That might be the highest I’ve ever jumped. We’ll have to check the video. Brett has great vision. That was his 10th assist. He just threw it up and I had to go get it."
Just a night before, Harvard — the nation’s oldest university, founded in 1636 — pulled off a major upset over fourth-seeded New Mexico. Now, one of its youngest — FGCU’s first student was admitted in 1997 — has an even bigger one.
The Eagles’ monster run gave them a 52-33 lead with 12:28 to play. The Hoyas staged a furious rally to get within 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, we got out, we ran, we made shots, got some alley-oop dunks to energize the crowd. I’m very proud of our players," said coach Andy Enfield, whose wife — supermodel Amanda Marcum — was shown several times on the arena’s big screen.
For those who don’t know FCGU, and that was probably plenty of people as of Friday afternoon, Florida Gulf Coast is a state university in Fort Myers with an enrolment of about 12,000 students.
This is FGCU’s first tournament and Georgetown’s 29th, including the 1984 national championship. But the Eagles did beat Miami earlier this season.
It was another disappointing NCAA exit for the Hoyas (25-7), who have lost to a double-digit seed in their last four appearances. The last time they made it to the second weekend of the tournament was in 2007, when they reached the Final Four.
"I wish I could, trust me, more than anyone on this Earth," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said when asked if he could figure out the losses to lower seeds. "I’ve tried to analyze it, think about it, look at it, think about what we should do differently and I don’t know."
Markel Starks had 23 points for the Hoyas, a tri-champion of the Big East regular season and one of the top defensive teams in the nation.
That didn’t seem to bother the Eagles much.
While Georgetown came in allowing 55.7 points per game, FGCU beat that number with 9:22 to play when it led 57-40. The Hoyas allowed opponents to shoot 37.6 per cent from the field, fourth-best in the country. The Eagles shot 42.9 per cent (21 of 49) and they held the Hoyas to 37.5 per cent from the field (24 of 64).
Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. had 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting and 11 rebounds. On this night he couldn’t match Brown, the A-Sun’s player of the year.
Porter, a sophomore who said he hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to return to Georgetown next season, said "winning is hard."
"They got out in transition, and that started their run," he said. "They started knocking down the shot. It’s hard when a team is knocking down shots like that."
The FGCU fans who made the trip to Philadelphia were loud all game. The rest of the crowd at Wells Fargo Center joined them during the big run and there’s nothing to bring fans together like rooting against a heavy favourite.
"I don’t think anybody on our team has ever played in front of that many people," said reserve forward Eddie Murray, who had 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 — it was a celebration that could be felt all the way to back to campus.
The Hoyas used an 8-0 run to take an 18-11 lead midway through the first half but that’s where their offence went cold — very cold.
The Eagles closed the half on a 13-4 run as Georgetown missed nine straight shots and committed five turnovers. FGCU took a 24-22 lead on two free throws by Eddie Murray with 26 seconds left. In another example of how out of synch Georgetown was offensively, the Hoyas passed the ball around as the halftime horn sounded, allowed the Eagles to keep their lead.
As the night wound down, one fan yelled at the Eagles to stick around Philly a couple of more days.
"Get a cheese steak, kid! Get a cheese steak!"
The crowd then paid Florida Gulf Coast the ultimate tribute: the E-A-G-L-E-S! Eagles! chant reserved for their favourite NFL team.