The Atlantic Sun Conference couldn’t pull off the season-opening shocker against a major-college basketball program this time.
Tuesday night, Florida Gulf Coast’s men’s basketball team fell in lopsided fashion to Kansas University, 85-45, on a night when the Jayhawks revealed their national-championship banner from a season ago.
Florida Gulf Coast, hoping to spring an upset in the season-opener against a power conference the same way fellow A-Sun schools Mercer and Belmont did to USC and Cincinnati last season, couldn’t conjure up that same magic inside Allen Fieldhouse.
In fact, the Eagles weren’t even close.
Afterward, FGCU coach Dave Balza spoke candidly about his seventh-year program going up against the Jayhawks, entering their 111th year of basketball.
“Let’s face it,” Balza said. “Kansas has more alumni with jerseys retired from their program than we have alumni from our program. They’ve got a lot of years of basketball.”
Balza said he tried taking a page from Belmont, which upset Cincinnati, 86-75, last season. Like the Bruins, Balza wanted his Eagles to break the game into 10 four-minute segments from one media timeout to the next.
“But in the end, we tied one and won one,” Balza said. “That’s not gonna do it.”
Earlier in the week, Balza spent an entire practice blaring the famous “Rock Chalk” chant over the loudspeakers in his team’s gym to simulate crowd noise his team would hear at the game. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the chant only emanates from Jayhawk fans when their team has a victory clearly in hand near game’s end.
“We talked about not wanting to hear that too early, but we heard that a lot earlier than we wanted to,” Balza said.
Actually, the chant didn’t spread across Allen Fieldhouse until roughly 1:30 remained in the contest. It very well could have started by halftime.
That’s because the Eagles (0-1), who hadn’t played since an exhibition game against Ave Maria 13 days ago, put on one of the most miserable offensive displays in Fieldhouse history.
FGCU shot a putrid 3-for-25 (12 percent) in the opening 20 minutes, committing 14 turnovers without a single assist.
If not for two late field goals in the final minute with KU’s walk-ons on the floor, the Eagles would have broken the record for fewest field goals made in a game by a visiting team in the Fieldhouse’s 53-year history. Instead, FGCU barely surpassed the 12 that Syracuse notched against Kansas on Dec. 14, 1968.
The Eagles finished 13-for-55 (23.6 percent).
Things were so bad for the Eagles that Kansas guard Sherron Collins outscored their entire team in the first half, 18-13.
FGCU scored more points from the free-throw line (seven) than it did from the field (six) in that first half.
Eagles guard Reed Baker, who led FGCU with 11 points on just 3-of-14 shooting Tuesday, said his team was overwhelmed from the start.
“A lot of guys on our team haven’t played in front of a thousand people, let alone 17,000 people,” Baker said.