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Florida Gulf Coast beats San Diego State, is first 15 seed to make Sweet 16

PHILADELPHIA -- Florida Gulf Coast doesn't have any high school All-Americans on its squad. It doesn't have an experienced head coach, and with only one senior starter, there isn't a wealth of experience on the roster either.

What the team does have is a berth in the Sweet 16 and a place in NCAA Tournament history.

Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed to advance past the first weekend of March Madness, using a 17-0 second-half run to blow past San Diego State in a 81-71 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.

The Eagles (26-10) will play third-seeded Florida in the South Regional semifinals in Arlington, Texas.

After an entertaining first 30 minutes that saw 10 ties and nine lead changes, Florida Gulf Coast produced a run that nobody in the building saw coming -- except maybe the Eagles' bench.

Seventh-seeded San Diego State (23-11) pulled within two points on a Xavier Thames bucket with 11:33 remaining, but the Aztecs went the next 7:33 without putting the ball through the bucket as the Eagles took control.

How Florida Gulf Coast managed to fly under the national radar for so long is a bit of a mystery. A win over Miami (Fla.) in the second game of the season showed that the Eagles were capable of playing with the best teams in the country, though winning two games in March is much different than winning one in November.

The Eagles were paced by sophomore guard Bernard Thompson's 23 points. Sherwood Brown added 17 points and eight rebounds, and three other Florida Gulf Coast players scored in double figures.

Eagles point guard Brett Comer is establishing himself as one of the nation's top floor generals. The 6-foot-3 sophomore followed up a 10-assist, two-turnover performance against Georgetown on Friday with a 10-point, 14-assist, three-turnover effort against one of the toughest defenses in the country.

The Eagles became only the second team all season to score 80 points against the Aztecs, joining UNLV, which had 85 points back on Jan. 16.

Comer isn't the only Eagle who's earned himself a reputation this weekend. Chase Fieler, a 6-8 junior forward, has had a number of highlight-reel dunks that have earned the program the moniker "Dunk City" on social media. Fieler finished with 11 points, the same total as sophomore guard Christophe Varidel.

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State's do-everything junior guard, finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Chase Tapley added 17 points, James Rahon 12 and DeShawn Stephens 10 for the Aztecs.

Florida Gulf Coast's advancement was one of the big early storylines of the tournament, as the Eagles knocked off second-seeded Georgetown on Friday in just their second year as a full Division I member. Now the Eagles are sure to be one of the biggest stories of the year, no matter how much further coach Andy Enfield's squad can go.

The Fort Myers school moved up from Division II to the Atlantic Sun Conference back in 2007, then went through a four-year transition period before gaining postseason eligibility.

The schools played an entertaining first half of basketball at the Wells Fargo Center, as San Diego State took a 35-34 lead into the half.

In a first half with five ties and four lead changes, neither team held an advantage larger than the six-point lead SDSU had with 2:20 remaining break intermission.

NOTES: The Eagles had led 21 consecutive games at the half before Sunday. ... Franklin, a 6-foot-5 junior, is one of two players nationally to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.