PHILADELPHIA -- Florida Gulf Coast University likes to go just by its initials because the full name conjures images of a backwater community college. But the 15th-seeded Eagles stepped into the national spotlight Friday night with an upset for the ages, beating powerful No. 2 seed Georgetown, 78-68, at Wells Fargo Center.
The little school in its second year of NCAA Tournament eligibility blew the doors off the Big East co-champion Hoyas (25-7) with a 21-2 run early in the second half that gave the Eagles (25-10) a 19-point lead. It was a surreal charge led by guards Sherwood Brown (24 points, nine rebounds), Bernard Thompson (23 points, seven rebounds) and Brett Comer (12 points, 10 assists) as they became only the seventh 15th seed in NCAA history to win.
FGCU's defense kept Big East player of the year Otto Porter in check with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The three-point shooting of Markel Starks (23 points) and Jabril Trawick (11) got Georgetown within four points with 52.4 seconds left, but the Eagles, who were 30-for-44 at the foul line, put the game away with free throws.
With his team holding a 24-22 halftime lead in a tense defensive struggle, Eagles coach Andy Enfield decided it was time to shift gears.
"We decided to play FGCU basketball, and that's up-tempo, throw some alley-oops, kick the ball out to the three,'' he said, "and whether it was makes or misses, we wanted to push the ball in transition and play our style in the second half.''
That message was music to his players' ears. As Brown said, "I really felt like we had them right where we wanted them when we went into halftime up by two. We're a team that comes out in the second half with a lot of fire, so that's when I knew we had them.''
When Georgetown tied the score at 31 on Starks' three-pointer with 17:27 left, it seemed the world order had been restored. In fact, it was just about to come unhinged.
Thompson hit a three-pointer, followed by Eddie Murray's dunk off a beautiful interior pass, and Thompson buried another three. The Eagles were off and running on their 21-2 blitz that gave them a 52-33 lead.
It looked as if Enfield's team was running a clinic for a team coached by John Thompson III, who learned the Princeton offense from the master, Pete Carril. "They made a bunch of shots,'' Thompson said. "We got nervous and spread out, and they went to their second and third options and picked us apart.''
The loss marked Georgetown's fourth straight exit against a double-digit seed.
"Trust me, more than anyone on this Earth, I've analyzed it and thought about it to see what we could do differently,'' Thompson said. "I don't know.''
When the game clock struck 0:00, the Eagles still were at the Big Dance. "I just wanted to shake the other coach's hand,'' Enfield said, "before they put more time on the clock.''