Florida Gulf Coast went from shocking the college basketball world to downright impressing it. And the Eagles were smiling the whole time.
Playing loose and easy, little-known FCGU beat San Diego State 81-71 on Sunday to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield, whose players tossed him in the air and poured water on him in raucous celebration before his postgame interviews. “We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.
“Our goal was to make history and we did it.”
The next opponent for the upstart state school will be the main campus, third-seeded Florida, on Friday night in the South Regional semifinal in Dallas.
“We tried to scrimmage them early in the season in the preseason,” Enfield said. “Now we get our shot,”
Bernard Thompson had 23 points and Sherwood Brown added 17 for FGCU, the 16-year-old school in just its second season being eligible for postseason play.
In its first-ever NCAA tournament game on Friday, the Atlantic Sun champion busted brackets everywhere with an upset win over No. 2 Georgetown, a game the Eagles took control of with a 21-2 run in the second half.
It went much the same way against San Diego State.
This time the run was 17-0 and Brown, who was saddled early in the second half with foul trouble, had eight of the first 10 points of it. When it was over the Eagles led 71-52 with 4:19 to play and the only decisions left were how the players and fans were going to celebrate.
Brown stuck out his tongue after every big basket, often in the direction of the hundreds of Eagles fans jammed into one section.
Even when the game was tight, he and his teammates looked they were glad to be on the court. The Eagles waved their arms and played along with a lively crowd that came to see an upset. There were big smiles and high-fives.
In short, they showed a kind of joy that’s often missing from high stakes, high drama games in March.
Florida 78, Minnesota 64: In Austin, Texas, Mike Rosario scored 25 points and Florida used an overpowering first half to roll past Minnesota and into the NCAA tournament round of 16 for third consecutive year with a 78-64 win Sunday in the South Regional.
The No. 3 seed Gators (28-7) shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half and led by 21 by halftime. The win earns Florida a return trip to the Lone Star State to play their next game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Andre Hollins scored 25 points to lead the No. 11-seed Gophers (21-13). Hollins' 3-point shooting sparked a second-half rally that pulled Minnesota within seven points, but Rosario's sixth 3-pointer with 3 minutes left pushed the Gators' lead back to 16 and effectively locked up the win.
Ohio State 78, Iowa State 75: In Dayton, Ohio, Aaron Craft made a last-second, tie-breaking 3 and Ohio State remained the lone high seed left in the NCAA tournament's most-busted bracket.
Ohio State (28-7) needed Craft's only 3-pointer of the game – an arching shot over 6-foot-7 defender Georges Niang from the top of the key – to avoid yet another upset in the oh-so-wild West Regional. Four of the top five seeds fell fast and hard in the first weekend.
Craft left the Buckeyes in position to fritter away a late lead with some missed free throws, then saved them in the final second.
Craft also drew a charge on Iowa State's Will Clyburn near the basket with 1:41 on a play that could have put the Cyclones up by three. It was a close call. Replays showed Craft's right heel was at the semicircle restricting the area where players can take a charge.
Ohio State's 10th straight win sent the Buckeyes into the round of 16 for the fourth straight year, a school record. They'll play sixth-seeded Arizona on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Tenth-seeded Iowa State (23-12) overcame a late 13-point deficit by hitting 3s – the Cyclones' specialty.
Deshaun Thomas led Ohio State with 22 points, and Craft had 18. LaQuinton Ross scored 10 straight for the Buckeyes as they built that second-half lead.
Korie Lucious led Iowa State with 19 points.
Indiana 58, Temple 52: In Dayton, Ohio, On the verge of being the second No. 1 knocked from the NCAA tournament, Indiana finally stopped Temple's No. 1.
Victor Oladipo hit a key 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and the top-seeded Hoosiers, their season moments from ending in disappointment, shut down Owls star Khalif Wyatt in the final three minutes to hold off the Owls.
The Hoosiers (29-6) trailed by four with 2:56 left, but closed with a 10-0 run and advanced to the round of 16 for the second straight year.
Indiana will play No. 4 seed Syracuse in the regional semifinals on Thursday in Washington, a rematch of the classic 1987 title game won by the Hoosiers.
Wyatt scored 31 points to lead the Owls (24-10), who gave one of the Big Ten's big boys all they could handle before collapsing when it mattered most. Oladipo, who spent the afternoon doing all he could to slow down Wyatt, scored 16 and Cody Zeller added 15 for the Hoosiers.
Kansas 70, North Carolina 58: In Kansas City, Mo., Kansas got the best of 'ol Roy and his Tar Heels once again.
Behind the impassioned play of Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, the top-seeded Jayhawks shook themselves out of a first-half slumber and blitzed No. 8 seed North Carolina down the stretch.
Withey had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Releford finished with 22 points for the Jayhawks (31-5), who also knocked former coach Roy Williams' team out of the NCAA tournament during their 2008 title run and again last season, when Kansas marched all the way to the Final Four.
It'll keep marching this year – at least to the Sweet 16.
– thanks to a superb second half.
P.J. Hairston scored 15 points and James Michael McAdoo finished with 11 for the Tar Heels (25-11).