KENNESAW, Ga. -- Senior forward Aaron Anderson recorded a double-double, junior forward Brandon Dawson equaled a career-high with 12 points and Kennesaw State had a season-high four players score in double figures.
However, visiting Florida Gulf Coast hit two key three-pointers down the stretch to rally from a second-half deficit and record a 68-59 victory over the Owls in both team's Atlantic Sun Conference opener Monday at the KSU Convocation Center.
"I thought the effort was there for 31 minutes, the last nine minutes of the first half and pretty much the second half," Kennesaw State head coach Lewis Preston said. "When their stars needed to step up make shots, (Bernard) Thompson and Sherwood Brown stepped up an made shots. We had some wide open looks that we weren't able to knock down.
"It's frustrating from the standpoint that were able to give ourselves opportunities to extend the lead and weren't able to extend it. With all good teams, once you're not able to extend, they're able to come down and knock down some shots," Preston added.
Senior guard Sherwood Brown scored a game-high 19 points, including a three-point basket with 6:18 remaining that gave the Eagles (9-5, 1-0) a 54-50 lead. Brown's basket followed a three-pointer by sophomore guard Bernard Thompson that gave Florida Gulf Coast its first lead since the final two minutes of the first half.
Thompson finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists, while fellow backcourt mate Brett Comer contributed 11 points and a game-high tying five assists.
Kennesaw State (1-12, 0-1) was led by sophomore guard Delbert Love, who scored a season-high tying 16 points and added five assists. Senior forward Markeith Cummings chipped in 11 points while Anderson tallied 10 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
Dawson, who connected on 6-of-8 shots from the field and scored eight of his 12 points in the first half, helped spark a run that erased an early 16-point deficit and gave the Owls a 36-35 halftime lead. After trailing 23-7 with 10:10 remaining in the half, Kennesaw State outscored the Eagles 29-13 over the final 10 minutes.
Dawson and Cummings scored six points apiece to key the comeback and help Kennesaw State record its highest first-half point total of the season.
"I feel my teammates really helped support me and did a good job of putting me in places where I could be successful," Dawson said. "I feel collectively as a group we were making steps in the right direction and things are going to improve pretty soon."
The Owls took that momentum into the second half and built their biggest lead of the game at 44-39 following a basket by Cummings with 15:37 remaining. Kennesaw State maintained that lead until Thompson's three-pointer with just less than seven minutes to play.
Kennesaw State returns to action Wednesday when it hosts Stetson at the KSU Convocation Center beginning at 5 p.m. The game will follow the women's game that begins at 2:30 p.m.
Kennesaw State University