PHILADELPHIA -- Florida Gulf Coast became the first 15 to reach the Sweet 16, and the Eagles not only made it look easy, they made it look fun.
Little-known FGCU beat San Diego State 81-71 on Sunday night, its second NCAA tournament upset of the weekend. Just like in their opening win over second-seeded Georgetown – the Eagles' calling card to the nation – there were plenty of laughs, dunks and dances.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously," said Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield, whose players tossed him in the air and doused him with water in a raucous celebration before his postgame interviews. "We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.
"Our goal was to make history and we did it."
With its campus in Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast opened its doors to students in 1997. The university only became eligible for postseason play last year. Now the next opponent for the upstart state school will be the system's flagship university, third-seeded Florida, on Friday night in the South Regional semifinal in Dallas.
"We tried to scrimmage them early in the season in the preseason," Enfield said. "Now we get our shot."
Bernard Thompson had 23 points and Sherwood Brown added 17 for FGCU, the Atlantic Sun champion.
In their first-ever NCAA tournament game on Friday, the 15th-seeded Eagles busted brackets everywhere with a win over Georgetown, a game in which they took control with a 21-2 run in the second half.
It went much the same way against seventh-seeded San Diego State.
This time the run was 17-0 and Brown, who was saddled early in the second half with foul trouble, had eight of the first 10 points of it. When it was over the Eagles led 71-52 with 4:19 to play and the only decisions left were how the players and fans were going to celebrate.
Brown stuck out his tongue after every big basket, often in the direction of the hundreds of Eagles fans jammed into one section.
Even when the game was tight, he and his teammates looked they were glad to be on the court. The Eagles waved their arms and played along with a lively crowd that came to see an upset. There were big smiles and high-fives.
In short, they showed a kind of joy that's often missing from high stakes, high drama games in March.
"We're all about having fun and also playing really hard and that's something we like to do, we like to get the crowd involved," said Brown, the A-Sun's player of the year. "The whole crowd got behind us even if they are not from Fort Myers, or as I like to say, `Dunk City.'"
It turns out a rap video called "Dunk City" sprang up overnight in praise of the Eagles.
The notoriously tough Philly fans jumped on the bandwagon, too. One seated behind the FGCU bench held a sign – "Fly, Eagles, Fly!" – the motto of the NFL team that plays across the street from the Wells Fargo Center.
And after it was all over, the whole team joined in a bird dance that the players on the bench had been doing during the game.
"I know I can say for all the players, this was the biggest game for us. None of us have played on this stage," point guard Brett Comer said. "We are blessed to be here."
FGCU played like it had nothing to lose. And really, the Eagles didn't. Given their school's short history, nobody expected them to win a game at the NCAA tournament, let alone two.
"They play with a swagger, and they have a right to do that," said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who knows about players with attitude, having led the Fab Five to consecutive national championship games at Michigan. "You can have that look and feel, but you have to compete and play to earn your spurs, and they've done that."
Comer, who didn't have as many lob passes for dunks as he did against the Hoyas, finished with 10 points and 14 assists, some of which resulted in dunks that had the crowd cheering and wanting more.
"We want to get out and run," Comer said. "We're just having so much fun."
FGCU even unleashed another offensive weapon. Christophe Varidel, a native of Switzerland, hit two big 3s early for the Eagles and finished with 11 points after going scoreless against Georgetown.
"If we can get him open shots, he's as good a shooter as I've seen," Enfield said. "He stepped up tonight and helped us and we needed that because Sherwood Brown was in early foul trouble."
Jamal Franklin had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Aztecs (23-11), who were trying to reach the regional semifinals for the second time in three years.
Franklin spoke with Brown after the game.
"I just told him just keep being the leader that he is, make sure the ball is in his hands, make sure he does what he has to do to keep his team rolling," Franklin said.
Xavier Thames' layup brought the Aztecs within 54-52 with 11:33 to play but the Eagles were off on their spurt about 90 seconds later. FGCU held San Diego State without a field goal for more than 7 minutes as it again pulled away again from a team with much bigger national profile.
"We just tried to keep a steady pace and tried to wear them down. We think we can play with anybody in the country," center Chase Fieler said. "When we got the running game going it felt like a home game."
The Eagles shot 55.9 percent for the game (33 of 59), including going 7 of 18 from 3-point range.
The Aztecs finished at 44.3 percent (27 of 61) and were 8 of 23 from beyond the arc.
"They ran. They ran hard, they ran consistent, and they ran effectively," Fisher said. "They're playing with a kind of momentum that they have earned."
FGCU had one of its highlight plays in the first half when Comer flipped the ball up toward the rim and a flying Eric McKnight grabbed it for a one-hand jam with 8:50 to play that woke up the crowd.
Suddenly it sounded a lot like Friday night, when the Eagles had several jams on lob passes that were a big part of the Georgetown upset.
McKnight was asked if that was his best dunk.
"I don't rate them," he said, "but it was one of my best ones."
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1992: Duke vs. Kentucky - Elite 8
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1983: N.C. State vs. Houston - National Championship
Tied at 52, Lornezo Charles put back Derrick Whittenburg's air ball and dunked it as time expired to give N.C State a 74-72 victory over Houston in the 1983 National Championship game.
1998: Valparaiso vs. Ole Miss - 1st Round
In the first round, No. 14 seed Valparaiso's Bryce Drew nailed a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Rebels a 70-69 victory over Ole Miss.
2003: Maryland vs. UNCW - 1st Round
Down 73-72 with five seconds left in regulation, Maryland's Drew Nicholas dribbled down the court and nailed a desperation 3-pointer to put away UNCW in the first round, 75-73.
1995: Missouri vs. UCLA - 2nd Round
Down 74-73 in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament, Tyus Edney of UCLA drove the ball the full length of the court and made a tough layup, leading the Bruins past Missouri and into the Sweet 16.
1998: UCONN vs. Washington - Sweet 16
Down 74-73 in the Sweet 16, Rip Hamilton of Connecticut grabbed the loose ball and hit a fade away jumper at the buzzer to beat Washington 75-74.
2006: Texas vs. West Virginia - Sweet 16
After West Virginia tied the game at 71 with five seconds remaining, Texas' Kenton Paulino knocked down a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Mountaineers 74-71.
1981: Arkansas vs. Louisville - 2nd Round
In the second round of the 1981 NCAA tournament, U.S Reed nailed a half court shot at the buzzer, giving Arkansas the victory over the defending champs Louisville.
1990: UCONN vs. Clemson - Sweet 16
Down 70-69 to Clemson with just one second on the clock, Connecticut's Tate George caught a full court pass, turned around and made a short jumper as time expired and Uconn won 71-70.
1992: Georgia Tech vs. USC - 2nd Round
James Forrest of Georgia Tech <a href="http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2004/03/21/gat_409468.shtml" target="_blank">hadn't made a 3-pointer all season. </a>With one second showing on the clock, Forrest received the inbound pass and threw up a 3-pointer. It fell right in, giving the Yellow Jackets a 79-78 victory over USC.
2010: Michigan State vs. Maryland - 2nd Round
After Greivis Vasquez and the Terps rallied to take a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds remaining, Korie Lucious nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Michigan State into the Sweet 16.
2010: Murray State vs. Vanderbilt - 1st Round
Trailing by one point with 4.2 seconds left, Murray State's Danero Thomas received a pass at the top of the key and took one dribble to his right. Then he stopped, took a fadeaway jumper and nailed a game-winning buzzer beater to upset Vanderbilt.
1984: VCU vs. Northeastern - 1st Round
With his team trailing Jim Calhoun's Northeastern squad 69-68 with two seconds remaining, VCU's Rolando Lamb received the inbounds pass just inside the 3-point line. Lamb then turned around and threw up a quick shot and made it at the buzzer. The No. 6 Rams avoided the upset.
1986: Iowa State vs. Miami (OH) - 1st Round
With just two seconds remaining and the score tied at 79, Iowa State's Jeff Hornacek received the inbounds pass just beyond the 3-point line. He took one dribble, turned and nailed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
2011: Butler vs. ODU - 1st Round
Butler's Matt Howard was in the right place at the right time after a desperation shot missed in the final seconds. Howard was there for the rebound and quick put-back just as time expired, giving the No. 8 Bulldogs a 60-58 win.
1990: UNC vs. Oklahoma - 2nd Round
No. 8 UNC inbounded the ball underneath the Oklahoma basket with eight seconds remaining and the score tied at 77. Rick Fox got the ball on the right wing, drove the baseline and made a running layup as time expired to knock off the No. 1 Sooners.
2008: Western Kentucky vs. Drake - 2nd Round
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1977: Marquette vs. UNC Charlotte - Final Four
Marquette had to inbound the ball from under its own basket and score in three seconds to avoid overtime. Butch Lee launched a pass toward Jerome Whitehead all the way in the far paint. Whitehead recovered the deflected ball, turned around and made a layup at the buzzer to send Marquette into the championship game.
2000: Florida vs. Butler - 1st Round
Trailing by one with seven seconds remaining, Mike Miller of the No. 5 Florida Gators got the ball on the left wing. He dribbled to his right and through the lane, throwing up a running layup. It fell through the net as time expired, sending Florida to the second round.