East Tennessee State (18-14) at Florida Gulf Coast (21-11)
GAME NOTES: The Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament continues on Thursday night when the top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles welcome the fourth-seeded East Tennessee State Buccaneers to Alico Arena for semifinal-round action.
The winner of this game will take on either USC Upstate of Mercer for the tournament title.
ETSU needed two extra sessions to dismiss Lipscomb to open up the tournament but was finally lifted to the thrilling 89-88 victory after A.J. Merriweather drained the game-winning free throw with just two seconds left in double overtime. The triumph allowed the Bucs to improve to 18-14 overall, but now they head out on the road, where they've gone just 5-9.
FGCU's tournament began with an easy 77-55 victory over Stetson in Tuesday's quarterfinal round, its fifth win in its last six games dating back to the regular season. The Eagles are now 21-11 overall and have been nothing short of excellent at Alico Arena (14-1).
The teams split the two-game series during the regular season, with each side winning at home. ETSU leads the all-time series, 9-4.
After the Bucs overcame a 16-point second half deficit to tie the game in the final 10 seconds of regulation and coughed up a late lead in the first overtime, they finally prevailed in dramatic fashion in the second extra session when Merriweather made the second of two free-throw attempts with two seconds left to lift them to victory. They shot only 36.2 percent from the field on the evening but made up for it with a 31-of-40 showing at the free- throw line. Jalen Riley scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Kinard Gadsden-Gillard (12 points, 10 rebounds) also tallied a double-double, while Rashawn Rembert (16 points), Lester Wilson (13) and Hunter Harris (11) were also effective in the marathon matchup.
ETSU has been led by its strong offense this season, as it shoots 43.3 percent from the field and 75 percent at the foul line for 77.2 ppg, but it has allowed nearly as many points on the opposite end of the court (76.4 ppg). Rembert pours in 16.8 ppg and has drained 99 3-pointers at a 42.9 percent clip. Riley (13.2 ppg), Gadsden-Gilliard (11.0 ppg), Wilson (10.4 ppg), Merriweather (9.8 ppg) and Harris (9.3 ppg) have all been active for the deep squad as well.
The Eagles barely broke a sweat in their quarterfinal-round bout earlier in the week, as they opened up a 20-point lead at the half and put the game on autopilot from there. They outshot Stetson from the field, 48.1 percent to 36.2 percent, won the rebounding battle (41-30) and enjoyed a stellar showing from the free-throw line (19-of-24). Pacing four players in double figures with 17 points was Chase Fieler, who shot 7-of-8 from the field. Bernard Thompson had 16 points, Eric McKnight and Jamail Jones netted 15 and 10, respectively, and Brett Comer tallied nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
On the season, FGCU has performed well on both ends of the court, shooting 47.4 percent from the field for 72.6 ppg while allowing 67.2 ppg on just 41.7 percent shooting. Thompson paces the squad with 15.1 ppg, shooting 79.1 percent from the free-throw line while knocking down a team-best 52 3- pointers. Comer runs an effective point with 14.0 ppg and 5.5 apg, while Fieler rounds out an impressive scoring trio with 13.9 ppg on 55.2 percent field goal shooting.
ETSU is riding high after its thrilling quarterfinal-round victory, but expect that momentum to come to a halt on the road in this one against the defending- champion Eagles.
GAME NOTES: The Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament continues on Thursday night
when the top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles welcome the fourth-seeded East
Tennessee State Buccaneers to Alico Arena for semifinal-round action.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alico Arena (4,500) -- Fort Myers, Florida.
Television: CSS, ESPN3.com. Home Record: ETSU 12-5, FGCU 14-1. Away Record:
ETSU 5-9, FGCU 6-9. Neutral Record: ETSU 1-0, FGCU 1-1. Conference Record:
ETSU 10-8, FGCU 14-4. Series Record: East Tennessee State leads, 9-4.Game Date and Time
Thursday, March 6, 6:30 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Florida Gulf Coast 80, East Tennessee St. 72