Andy Enfield holds up the net after his team defeated Mercer
Florida Gulf Coast advanced within a victory of the NCAA tournament last season and this season, but the unheralded upstarts that played in the Atlantic Sun title game last March bore only faint resemblance to the confident team that took the floor Saturday.
When the sixth-seeded Eagles shocked Mercer and USC Upstate to earn a crack at heavily favored Belmont last season, they were just giddy to unexpectedly reach the title game. This year's team won 21 regular season games and finished just a game out of first place in the Atlantic Sun, so it took a far more poised, businesslike approach to Saturday's title game at top-seeded Mercer.
Despite playing essentially a road game against a Mercer team that previously hadn't lost on its home floor this season, FGCU outplayed the top-seeded Bears in the second half to break open a back-and-forth game. Brett Comer scored 21 points to lead the Eagles to an 88-75 win that secured the school's first NCAA tournament berth just six years after it began the transition to Division I and two years after it became postseason eligible.
"It's a great moment for our program and our school," FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. "Last year, we went to the championship game on pure adrenaline, but we weren't good enough to win it. We weren't ready. This year was entirely different. We're much more experienced. We've played a very good, challenging schedule. Our players were confident, and they felt we were ready to win this tournament."
FGCU's victory marks the culmination of the program's rise from Atlantic Sun bottom feeder to contender during Enfield's two-year tenure. The Eagles lost 20 0r more games under Dave Balza each of their first four seasons in Division I, but Enfield led them to a respectable 15-17 record last season and has the program 24-10 this season after Saturday's win.
It's no surprise Enfield has been successful considering he was viewed as a rising star before he even coached his first game at FGCU.
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