Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

FGCU enjoying Philly's embrace

PHILADELPHIA — Since Florida Gulf Coast became a national darling Friday night, a fake Twitter account has been created for guard Sherwood Brown with more followers than his actual Twitter account. And coach Andy Enfield's cell phone showed 450 text messages, including one from a high school classmate with strategic advice.

This is life as Cinderella. And the 15th-seeded Eagles are doing it in Philadelphia, a city that embraces underdogs and Eagles — and it's even better when they're one and the same.

During Friday's upset of second-seeded Georgetown, the Wells Fargo Center crowd went into a frenzy for the school few had known about hours earlier.

"I feel like a lot of people out here in Philly make it seem like we're actually their home team," Brown said.

Florida Gulf Coast, which faces seventh-seeded San Diego State at 7:10 tonight, is the seventh 15th seed in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the round of 32. No 15th seed has ever reached the Sweet 16.

"That should be a goal of ours," Enfield said. "Thanks for telling me."

There's a heightened sense of awareness about the Eagles, so they won't take anyone by surprise. There's also a groundswell of support that accompanies the national spotlight — Charles Barkley interviewed Enfield and Brown on Saturday — and it becomes more difficult to say nobody believes in them.

"That's where you got to trust the maturity of your guys," said Creighton assistant coach Steve Merfeld, who coached 15th-seeded Hampton to an upset in 2001. "They got to let it go and move on to the next game, and they got to believe they can beat (San Diego State). And they can. That's the challenge of the coaching staff right now: to not allow them to be satisfied."

It's clear confidence is not an issue. Point guard Brett Comer had the audacity to hurl a risky alley-oop pass in the final minutes of what was becoming a close game. Brown flexes and blows kisses to the crowd. Before winning the Atlantic Sun tournament final to clinch their spot in the NCAA Tournament, forward Eddie Murray said the team played freeze tag to get loose.

So it made sense that with the Eagles on the verge of history, they huddled around a TV on Saturday watching discussion about today's game. Because why not have fun while it lasts.

"There's really no pressure on us," Murray said. "Everything we do from here on out, nothing is really expected of us. But we expect it of ourselves."

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