FGCU returning to NCAA Tourney, tops Stetson 80-78 in OT

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Zach Johnson sat out last season at Florida Gulf Coast for medical reasons, with doctors so concerned about his health that some wondered if he would ever play college basketball.

He's better than ever now - and he and the Eagles are headed to the NCAA Tournament.

Antravious Simmons scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Johnson capped his 19-point effort by blocking a potential game-tying shot at the rim with four seconds left, and FGCU won the Atlantic Sun Conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament by beating upset-minded Stetson 80-78 in overtime Sunday night.

''I'm just excited I can get the seniors a chance to go,'' Johnson said as FGCU players and fans swarmed the court in celebration. ''A lot of them haven't been. And me, I'm a freshman, I haven't had a chance to go.''

Next week, that'll change. FGCU became the fifth school to punch its ticket into the field of 68.

Marc-Eddy Norelia scored 16 and Christian Terrell added 15, including a spinning layup with 56.4 seconds left in overtime for FGCU (20-13), which is headed back to the NCAAs for the first time since the team's ''Dunk City'' crew made a stunning run to the Sweet 16 in 2013.

Derick Newton scored 22 for Stetson (12-22), which knew its season would end win or lose because the school is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this season.

Grant Lozoya and Divine Miles each scored 11 for the Hatters, but Miles' layup was the one Johnson blocked in the final moments.

FGCU trailed for much of the second half before using a 10-0 run late in the regulation to build a five-point lead. But the Hatters - helped by a pair of big 3-pointers from Lozoya and Leo Goodman - closed the half on a 9-4 run, then forced Johnson into a contested miss at the rim with 6 seconds left to force overtime.

FGCU scored the game's first 10 points, a run that started with a dunk from Demetris Morant and ended with a dunk from Norelia. However, Stetson recovered and went on a 16-4 run to take its first lead on a 3-pointer by Goodman.

From there, the teams stayed close until the Hatters went on a mini run at the end of the first half to take a 35-30 lead.

Stetson was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this year because of a subpar Academic Progress Report score, caused in part by the effect that two players who transferred to other schools had on that score. So if the Hatters won, the A-Sun would have seen regular-season champion North Florida get the automatic berth into the NCAAs.



Stetson: The Hatters played 34 games this season, the most in school history. ... Stetson traveled nearly 3,000 miles in a seven-day span, going to Newark for the first round of the A-Sun tournament at NJIT, then from there to Nashville to face Lipscomb in the semifinals, back to its campus in DeLand, Florida and finally the short trip to Fort Myers for the final. ... Stetson plans to add one scholarship player for 2016-17, plus bring back all 12 of its current players.

FGCU: The Eagles are now 59-11 at home over the past four seasons. ... Redshirt senior Filip Cvjeticanin and assistant coach Michael Fly are the only members of the Eagles' roster and coaching staff who were at FGCU during the NCAA Tournament run in 2013. ... FGCU could have as many as 11 returning players back in 2016-17, plus will add three transfers who were with the team and sat out this season. ... FGCU reached the 20-win mark for the fourth consecutive season.


Stetson was previously in the A-Sun title game in 1987 and 1994, losing both. FGCU has reached the A-Sun championship game four times in five years of eligibility since joining the conference, winning in 2013 and losing in 2012 and 2014.


Stetson: Season complete.

FGCU: NCAA Tournament, TBA.