The FGCU men's basketball team game promotion Sunday was Ugly Sweater Day.
The Eagles unfortunately got into that spirit and played an ugly end of the first half, trailing by eight.
But there was plenty of time for them. To finally make more than 1 3-pointer. Really. Eventually there was. There had to be.
And, like a Christmas Miracle — OK, maybe not exactly that — the Eagles started making them. And making them. They made 7 of 11 at one point, and four during a decisive 16-0 run that gave them the lead for good in a 67-55 victory.
FGCU scored 20 of the game's last 23 points.
"We tried to give them some confidence at halftime and just talked about, 'Fellas, the good news is, that's not us. That's not going to be us. At some point shots are going to fall,'" FGCU coach Michael Fly said.
"Our coaches had unbelievable faith in us," said Tavian Dunn-Martin, who had 20 points and 12 assists to lead the Eagles. "All of the players had faith in each other. I felt like we didn't play in eight days, came out flat, and then I feel like we picked it up in the second half."
Cyrus Largie added 15 points, including five during the 16-0 run, and Kevin Samuel and Matt Halvorsen each had 11 for the Eagles (10-3), who have won nine of 10.
"We kind of joke around 'Shoot while you're hot, or shoot until you get hot,'" said Halvorsen, who made 3 of 7 3-pointers. "That's kind of how it was tonight. We just kept putting them up. We're all good players and we know we've all got belief in each other that if a couple don't go down, the next one will."
The Eagles trailed 52-47 when Dunn-Martin made a 3-pointer. Then Largie scored, and then made one. Samuel had a dunk, and all of a sudden it was 57-52. Then Halvorsen hit a 3. And Dunn-Martin nailed another to make it 63-52.
In the first half, FGCU led 18-14 and had four opportunities to extend the lead, but committed two turnovers and missed two shots.
The Eagles were just 1 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half, and the Bears (7-5), who had won five straight and played without starting point guard Neftali Alvarez, made 6 of 13 from behind the arc, including three in a row to close the half.
"We could've easily just quit, shots weren't falling," Dunn-Martin said. "I feel like this team has unbelievable grit and a desire to win, and I feel like we all play for each other and everything is just going to fall in place."
"Credit our guys for just continuing to believe, and continuing to dig in," Fly said.
Alvarez missed his second straight game with a lower left leg injury.
"That's a really good team without him," said Fly, who recruited Alvarez to FGCU, which he had in his top three before choosing Fairfield. "They're really, really dangerous when they've got him."
FGCU plays at Canisius (3-9) on Wednesday to close its nonconference schedule.
3 Things To Know
1. The threes will fall. FGCU wasn't taking bad 3-pointers, at least most of the time, in that first half, but it was something else when the Eagles finally got going. And it was more than one player. Largie, Dunn-Martin, and Halvorsen all made 3-pointers.
FGCU came in 10th in the country in 3-pointers made per game at 11.2, so Fly had faith in that number.
"I told them at halftime, 'We're 1-for 12 and we're one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the country. That's great news for us and really bad news for Mercer, because the math says the ball's going to go in.'
"We kind of encourage them to be even more aggressive, keep shooting it, and again, the numbers say the ball's going to go in the basket, and thank God it did."
2. Dizzying drought. The Eagles have a penchant for these, and it's just a matter of whether they turn out to be a difference. Not scoring for the final 5:10 of the half while the Bears went on a 12-0 run could've been just that, though.
"Those are games right before the holidays, afternoon game, we haven't played in a week," Fly said. "Those are easy games to lose if you're not really careful. I thought our guys could've made excuses, could've lost it and said, 'Well, we just couldn't make shots tonight.' They just continued to defend, continued to rebound, continued to believe in each other, which I think's special about this team at this point anyway."
3. In the zone. FGCU played more zone again, and extended it at times. Especially during the 16-0 run, the Eagles put on more pressure out of it, and that seemed to at least bother the Bears, while not directly causing a bunch of turnovers.
Fly said assistant coaches Kevin Sutton, Justin Furr and Orrin Bailey Jr. told him they needed to get the game moving.
"We went into our zone press and I thought that changed the complexion of the game," Fly said. "They were way too comfortable with the game being slow. That allowed us to be able to speed up the tempo, and that's what got us back to playing like we like to play."
"I just thought it gave us some life," Halvorsen said. "When we're in our zone, we're all super active with our hands, with our feet. It makes us fly around because if you don't fly around, you'll give up wide-open shots.
"That kind of started it. We got stops and we were able to get out and run. When we're in transition, we 've got guys that can get downhill, we've got that can spot up and make shots, so it's a tough task for opposing defenses."
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at email@example.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: College basketball: 3 Things to Know from FGCU men's win vs. Mercer