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FGCU stuns No. 21 DePaul in OT thriller

In the opening game of the Playe4Kay Shootout, DePaul and FGCU put on a show that needed an extra five minuues to determine a winner. While both teams struggled to hit their signature three’s, the Eagles clinched the win from the free-throw line.

Tommi Goodman - Swish Appeal

Las Vegas, NV — A beautiful Thanksgiving day in Las Vegas turned into an upset as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles sent the #21 (USA Today Coaches' Poll) DePaul Blue Demons to dinner with a sour taste in their mouths, posting an 89-84 overtime victory.

The first period started off with aggressive drives to the rim for both teams. The Blue Demons were racking up fouls and were not able to win defensive rebounds, giving the Eagles more chances on offense. Many of the opening points were drives in the key, but more than halfway through the period, both teams started to find their rhythm and hit some threes to open the game up.

FGCU head coach Karl Smesko was pleased with his team's ability to change the pace of the game to fit their style.

“We got kids with good versatility, where not only can they hit threes, but they can put it on the floor,” Smesko said.

Heading into the second period with the Eagles up 20-11, the energy was great, from the bench, from reserves and the coaches ,and as well as the players on the court. FGCU redshirt senior China Dow made a statement being aggressive, with lots of drives and being very assertive on offense. However, the Blue Demons went on a 7-0 run with 3:54 left, with the Eagles just scoring their second basket of the period.

DePaul went into halftime with a 33-30 lead, which didn't last long. Florida Gulf Coast, on the strength of a 28-point quarter, went into the final frame with a 58-52 lead.

The fourth period was very intense, with with both teams refusing to relent to the other, staying even on the scoreboard. And it was clearly something that was frustrating the high-scoring juggernaut from Chicago. For FGCU, their whole plan was to try and minimize the damage DePaul could do scoring wise.

“They score a lot but they can also give up more points. So the plan was we need to get back and match up quickly because that was our whole game plan. They can’t score more than us,” Dow said.

The Blue Demons had an opportunity to win the game with 20.5 seconds but was unable to get the shot off, taking the game into overtime tied, 73-73.

During overtime, neither team could really pull away from the other, but FGCU proved to be too much for DePaul, and their was one reason why: free throws.

The end of the game, literally came down to the charity stripe. The Blue Demons missed five free throws during the five minute overtime, which proved to be their demise.

DePaul’s struggles at the line was a contrast to Florida Gulf Coast, who shot 81 percent (29-of-36) from the line in the game — the Blue Demons only shot 69%.

“We got to the foul line a lot today and made a high percentage today and that was the difference,” said Smesko.

FGCU will play Ohio State, who defeated Memphis, while DePaul will play Memphis.