The stage was set for the Eagles (0-2) to open the nest with a Victory at Alico Arena today. UMBC (2-0) was without several key players including K. J. Jackson and Arkel Lamar. The game started out a bit slow for both teams. In the first ten or so minutes of the contest, UMBC held a slim lead. At one point, Caleb Catto was carrying the Eagles with 10 of the team’s 12 points. At about the 10 minute mark, the team found rhythm. Jalen Warren ran the offense very well and dished out several clutch passes to set guys up to score. By halftime, the Eagles pulled away to a 10 point lead (41-31), looking very sharp and on their way to running away with a victory.
The second half also started slow for both teams. UMBC was first to break out of the slump. However, FGCU remained in control of the game for most of the second half and outplayed the Retrievers for most of the game. Unfortunately, they failed to stretch their lead to a big enough margin and put the Retrievers away for good. With around 3 minutes left to play, UMBC stole the lead and never gave it back.
UMBC was led by L.J Owens and Darnell Rogers (former Eagle) who paced the Retrievers with 21 points a piece. Rogers was effective in using his body to draw fouls and find open shots.
The Eagles were lead, in scoring, by Catto (15), Warren (14), and Zach Scott (11). The usually lights out Scott had a bit of an off night in regard to his shooting percentage. He made good decisions and took quality shots but a metaphorical lid seemed to cover the basket for him (1-6 from 3 and 4-8 from the line). He still managed to contribute in other ways and hauled in 6 rebounds. Catto struggled to hit shots in the second half as well but added 5 rebounds of his own. Warren played maybe the most well-rounded game of anyone on the squad tonight. In addition to his 14 points, he passed the ball extremely well and racked up 4 assists. He also played very good on-ball defense and grabbed 3 rebounds in the process.
In general, one of the biggest improvements shown in today’s game was the rebounding effort. Dakota Rivers, in particular, played effective post defense and hauled in a team high 8 rebounds. After two games, it is evident that Justus Rainwater is not only mad at the rim, but also very mad at the air as he violently and aggressively pulled down 5 rebounds on the night.
In the post-game press conference with Coach Michael Fly, he shed light onto some of the inactive players. He did not go into specifics but gave general timelines for players dealing with injury. Brian Thomas, unfortunately, is again dealing with an ailment. At this time they are uncertain if he will be back in a few weeks or out for a longer period of time. He played only 7 minutes in the first game so the injury appears to be something they are aware of and monitoring closely. Malik Hardy is yet to suit up for the Eagles. Coach Fly was much more optimistic about his situation, stating that they are confident he can return in the next few weeks. In regard to both Hardy and Thomas, he disclosed that they, as a team, do not expect either of these players to be out for the remainder of the season. Interestingly, Coach Fly mentioned Tracy Hector Jr as a player that has been going through injury for some time now and has not really practiced. This is surprising because Hector Jr has been playing fairly well in games so far this season and has not looked limited.
Overall the loss stings for fans as this is clearly a game that should have and could have gone in favor of FGCU. Starting the season 0-2 is unfortunate but there are definite encouraging takeaways from this game. Just about every player on the team looked as good or better than they did in the first game against Saint Louis. Qwanzi Samuels and Dakota Rivers both looked much more comfortable and effective. Tracy Hector Jr continues to be a source of consistency. Catto, Scott, and Warren are starting to look like a backcourt that should be feared by any opponent.
FGCU has a quick 2-day turnaround as they travel to New Hampshire to face Dartmouth (1-0) on Monday, November 11th. The Eagles will look to get back on track against the Big Green and secure their first victory of the season.