Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU) senior guards Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson proved why they are all-conference selections in game one as they combined for 48 points in a 98-87 win over Illinois St.
“Those two guards are so good and they just keep attacking,” Illinois St head coach Dan Muller said after the game. “I said it before the game; I don’t know if we’ll see a better backcourt than those two the entire year.”
Illinois St, which only allowed opponents to score 61 points per game on 38 percent shooting last season, gave on 98 points in an effort that Muller called embarrassing.
“I’m pretty shocked by what we looked liked defensively,” Muller said. “It’s a lot of things we need to fix.”
It was a back-and-forth first half with neither team leading by more than six points. That margin was held by the Redbirds at 25-19, with 10:19 remaining in the half, after they completed an 11-2 run. That was promptly followed by an 11-0 run by the Eagles put them up 30-25. The two teams would go back-and-forth with the Eagles taking a 45-42 lead into halftime
The second half started in a similar fashion with the two teams trading baskets for the first six minutes. After Illinois St took a 56-54 lead on sophomore guard Madison Williams’ three-pointer with 14:32 remaining, FGCU went on a 21-9 run to grab a 75-65 lead with 9:36 remaining. However, Illinois St refused to go away.
The Redbirds methodically clawed their way back into the game thanks to 57 percent shooting from behind the arc in the second half. They were even able to cut the lead until one at 83-82 with 4:33 remaining.
That was as close as they would get as FGCU senior guard Christian Terrell hit a three to put FGCU up 86-82 on the next possession to create a comfortable working margin.
Johnson’s 27 led the Eagles in scoring while Goodwin pitched in 21 and tied with Terrell and sophomore guard Christian Carlyle with 8 rebounds.
Junior guard Keyshawn Evans led the Redbirds with 28 points while junior forward Phil Fayne scored 24. Junior forward Milik Yarbrough had a team-high 8 rebounds.
FGCU returns to the court on Monday with a road game at Siena while Illinois St will play South Carolina in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which was moved to Conway, S.C. due to Hurricane Maria.