A school that hasn’t even celebrated its first 20-year reunion busted a load of brackets with a 78-68 victory over second-seeded Georgetown on Friday night in the second round of the South Regional.
In just their second season of eligibility for Division I postseason, 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 the seventh No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2.
Sherwood Brown scored 24 points and Bernard Thompson had 23 to lead Florida Gulf Coast, the champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
FGCU (25-10) moves on to play seventh-seeded San Diego State, which defeated 10th-seeded Oklahoma, on Sunday.
“We didn’t come here and have the attitude that we’re just glad to be here,” said FGCU point guard Brett Comer, who finished with 12 points, 10 assists and just two turnovers.
“We decided we can play with anybody and we did.”
A night after America’s oldest university, Harvard, pulled off a major upset over fourth-seeded New Mexico, one of its youngest — FGCU’s first student was admitted in 1997 — got one that was even bigger.
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 enrollment 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,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said when asked if he could figure out the losses to lower seeds. “Trust me, more than anyone on Earth, I’ve tried to analyze it. 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 percent from the field, fourth-best in the country. The Eagles shot 42.9 percent (21-of-49) and they held the Hoyas to 37.5 percent from the field (24-of-64).
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 favorite.
No. 15 seed winners
• 1991 — Richmond 73, Syracuse 69
• 1993 — Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61
• 1997 — Coppin State 78, South Carolina 65
• 2001 — Hampton 58, Iowa State 57
• 2112 — Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84
• Lehigh 75, Duke 70
• 2113 — Florida Gulf Coast 78, Georgetown 68