The Eagles fell to 2-10 on the season after losing to Robert Morris at home. The night started off on a strange note as Justus Rainwater lost the tip for first time (10-1). FGCU displayed solid defense, rebounding, and passing, jumping out to an early 7-2 lead. A couple of missed shots, turnovers and sloppy play led to quick, transition buckets for RMU, who would go on a 10-0 run. The lead would change hands 5 times in the first half before the Colonials closed it on an 8-0 run (28-21).
The second half began with Rainwater making a strong finish at the rim to begin narrowing the deficit. Unfortunately, bad defense and a turnovers would allow RMU to sink 2 straight 3s and expand their lead to 11 points. Then, FGCU began to turn up the pressure and things started rolling their way. Zach Scott was fouled on a 3 and hit each free throw. The Eagle’s press worked like a charm as they began getting steals, blocking shots, and turning it into offense. Jalen Warren hit a clutch 3 to narrow the deficit to 34-31. Caleb Catto would then lead the charge with great defense, shooting, and passing as the RMU lead was diminished to 42-41. Sam Gagliardi took the lid off the basket and made his first 3 of the night, to tie the game up at 44. Then, with 7:01 left in the game, FGCU took its first lead since 1:48 remaining in the first half (about 15 minutes) on a layup from Scott (46-45). Unfortunately, one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Eagles was the foul trouble they found themselves in. RMU was in the bonus and getting shots off of every foul for much of the second half. This kept them in the game, despite much improved play from FGCU. Scott and Catto would each get somewhat hot from 3 but a poor shooting percentage, plus free throws from the Colonials, proved to be too much to overcome. FGCU lost the game 64-59.
Below we will take a look at the good and the bad from the game, as well as take a look at what’s ahead for the Eagles.
FGCU limited themselves to a season-best tying 12 turnovers in the game. Coming into the game, the Eagles led the nation in turnovers so it was encouraging to see a somewhat cleaner game. During the post-game presser, Coach Fly spoke to this stating that the playbook was simplified a bit in order to take some of the decision making out of the hands of the players. This clearly had a positive effect and we expect the trend to continue. Until the guys have played and practiced enough minutes together, timing and communication will be off. Taking the decision making out of their hands a bit can expedite this process as well.
The ball movement in this game was some of the best all year. Players were consistently rotating on offense and setting each other up for success. The Eagles finished with 17 assists on the night. Tracy Hector Jr and Caleb Catto spearheaded this, ending up with 6 and 5 assists on the night, respectively.
Justus Rainwater and Dakota Rivers each did their part in the game. Rainwater played most of the game (29 minutes) and looks to have developed a pretty good on-court rapport with Caleb Catto. He finished the night with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Rivers played only 11 minutes but was a force on the defensive end, getting 2 solid blocks. These individuals played stellar defense all night and held RMU’s starting forwards to a total of 6 points.
Scott, again, led the team in scoring. He finished with 14 points and 3 rebounds. Scott continues to struggle through somewhat of a shooting slump but finds a way to keep his confidence and break through on the scoreboard. He shot 4/10 from the field and 3/9 from deep.
The overall shooting woes continued for FGCU. As a team they shot 39% from the floor and 23% from 3. Percentages were much better in the second half but the lid was tightly secured over the basket in the first. Sharpshooter, Sam Gagliardi, went 1-7 from deep. Scott and Catto combined to go 7/22. The 3-ball is something that will be relied on but when the shots aren’t falling, it is just another obstacle that this young team has to try and overcome each game.
Coupled with poor shooting, team fouls played a huge part in why the Eagles could not come way with the victory. Throughout the second half FGCU outplayed the Colonials and battled back hard. However, the Eagles tough press put them in foul trouble early and RMU was in the bonus for much of the half. When FGCU pulled close or took the lead, a foul would lead to shots for the other team. The Colonials made 16 of their free throws compared to 7 for the Eagles.
Gagliardi battled all game and struggled to hit his 3s. The tough defense that he has played all season continued here though. Near the end of the game, Gagliardi viciously collided with another player while going after the ball and had to be helped off the court. From what could be seen court-side, he appeared to sustain an eye injury and looked very shaken up as well. We wish Sam the best in his recovery and thank him for playing so hard until the end.
FGCU has a fair bit of time until the next game to regroup, work on some things, and game plan for South Dakota State. The Eagles will head to Brookings, SD for a battle with the Jackrabbits on 12/18.