Monday, February 17, 2014

Flying with the Eagles

       I've got to say my first visit to Spartanburg South Carolina was pretty cool. It was a trip with high anticipation that did not disappoint. When I revisited the Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball schedule after moving to South Carolina, I had February 15th circled on my calendar. I knew I had to go see the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. For this college basketball fan I cannot translate or compare the run the eagles made to the sweet 16 last year. I have tried to no avail.
       We arrived in Spartanburg 3 hours before tipoff. With time to kill grabbed some grub at the local Waffle House. Some people dog the WH but this one was solid. After food, a little sightseeing. My brother and I took a ride to the Wofford College football facility, where the Carolina Panthers partake in their summer workouts. A wrong turn and we approached the baseball field where Wofford must have been playing host to a tournament as Morehead State was on the field playing George Mason. Then onto downtown where the Denny's headquarters building raises above the skyline. Ok, enough of Spartanburg, let's go to the game.
       The Hodge Center holds 818, not 878 as I previously mislead. Entering Hodge reminded me of the Bill Bradley Center at Ramapo College or Paramus High School. Not at all big but this is just another reason why College Basketball fascinates me. We got into the gym with 50 minutes before tip, allowing ourselves to watch warmups and the all important layup line before the refs. See, in college as well as high school hoops when the refs come out before tip, if you are dunking, it will result in a technical foul. Typically the refs come out to the floor with 20 minutes before tip. Florida Gulf Coast was in their "Dunk City" mode during warmups. What made the warmups better was that Hodge has no baseline seats, just concrete walls so needless to say watching dudes throw self passes for dunks was cool. (Trying to get Warmups video but having trouble) Fieler and McKnight were the most fun to watch. Granted most D1 teams can do all the tricks but this was Florida Gulf Coast and watching the layup line was well worth the admission. Getting recognized from Fieler and Comer was sweet and even my brother got into the mix yelling at Kevin Boyle, acknowledging his new jersey sweatshirt.
       Onto the game. FGCU opened up with a 12-0 run. But Upstate countered with a 10-0 run of its own. It was an intense game that produced a solid shooting performance from the Eagles. "Dunk City" only provided 3 dunks, no alley oops either but Brett Comer had 2 sweet dishes(10 assists overall) and the Eagles won the game 84-80. Bernard Thompson, FGCU's leading scorer had 24, Fieler fouled out but had 17. The Eagles went 11-19 from distance and shot 59 percent from the floor. Ricardo Glenn made all of his shots from the floor for SC Upstate and finished with 24 points and 11 boards. The A-Sun's leading scorer the past 2 years, Torrey Craig had 14 points going 0-9 from deep for the Spartans. 
       In closing, despite no Coach Enfield and Sherwood Brown, FGCU did not cease to entertain. Granted they probably have a bigger target on their backs this year, the Eagles remain solid. Best of luck to them.

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