Hot shooting second half leads Georgia Southern past FGCU

Courtesy of FGCUAthletics.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Georgia Southern used a 61.5 percent shooting effort in the second half to overcome the FGCU men’s basketball team 72-57 on Sunday evening at Alico Arena. After the Green and Blue held the visiting Eagles to under 30 percent in the first half, Georgia Southern connected on 16-of-26 field goals in the second half to come back from a five-point halftime deficit.

“Unfortunately, tonight was a tale of two halves – we were the more aggressive team in the first half, we were up double-figures in the first half, we had the most energy in the first half, but Georgia Southern made a run in the second half to counter-punch us,” said head coach Michael Fly. “We talked at the break that the first four minutes would be critical, but they won that stretch and we couldn’t recover unfortunately. Credit Georgia Southern for how they were able to turn things around the last three minutes of the first half and into the second half.”

Junior Sam Gagliardi (Gig Harbor, Wash.) led FGCU with 13 points highlighted by four three pointers. Junior Justus Rainwater (Enunclaw, Wash.) nearly posted a double-double with 10 rebounds and eight points. Redshirt sophomore Malik Hardy (Miramar, Fla.) rounded out the top scorers with nine points while adding four rebounds and two assists.

Georgia Southern (5-3) was led by 16 points from both Elijah McCadden and Ike Smith, while Quan Jackson added 15 points.

The first half saw the FGCU (2-8) take a 35-30 lead into the locker room as the defense held Georgia Southern under 30 percent shooting from the floor and Gagliardi hit all four of his three pointers for 12 points at the break. The home Eagles led by as many as 11, 35-24, with 1:55 before the intermission.

The second half was all Georgia Southern from the start, however, as the Eagles went on a 20-to-5 run opening up a 50-40 lead at the 11:40 mark.

FGCU cut the lead under double digits on five occasions after that including a jumper by freshman Jalen Harper (Mableton, Ga.), but Georgia Southern re-extended their lead to as many as 18 with 2:27 to go.

Freshman Dakota Rivers (Windermere, Fla.) had a lay-up and a free throw in the last minute of play to give the final score.

Overall, FGCU shot 21-of-58 from the floor, while Georgia Southern finished 26-of-60. Georgia Southern also held a slight edge on the glass, 39-to-34, but were able to convert 12 rebounds into 17 second chance points compared to seven for FGCU.

FGCU will return to action on Wednesday night when the Eagles travel to Miami to face FIU (7 PM). The game will be streamed live on CUSA.tv.

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