PREVIEW: Protege Meets Mentor as FGCU travels to USC – 12/29/19

FGCU travels to Southern California to take on the Trojans. USC is 10-2 (5-1 @ home) and riding a 4 game win streak. The Trojans have wins against South Dakota State and LSU. They did lose to Marquette 101-79. USC is a very experienced team with 5 seniors on the roster. However, most of their production comes from youth. This team also features 6 freshmen.

The real story in this game is between the head coaches. As most might remember, the current head coach of USC, Andy Enfield, was the FGCU Men’s coach from 2011-2013. On his staff was current FGCU coach, Michael Fly. The two also worked together at FSU under coach Leonard Hamilton. Enfield and Fly have remained close to this point. Enfield was an advocate for Michael Fly’s hiring as FGCU’S next coach just over a year ago.

Below, we will take a look at some of the top Trojan performers, discuss how they might affect matchups, and give our overall outlook and predictions on the game.

The Players

Onyeka Okongwu (#21)

Okongwu is a hulking 6’9″ / 245 lb freshman. He has started all 12 games this season averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks in about 28 minutes per contest. Okongwu is a strong individual and the perfect forward for an Andy Enfield squad. He shoots 62% from the floor and has the ability to bang down low, but also shows finesse on his way to the basket.

Jonah Mathews (#2)

Mathews is a 6’5″ / 205 lb senior guard. He has played in 13 games this season, making 10 starts. In past seasons, Mathews has been a lethal shooter but he is having somewhat of a down year by his standards (38% from the floor and 39% from 3). In 30 minutes per game, he is averaging 13 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds a night. Mathews is a shooter, driver, and overall scorer with the potential to take over any game.

Nick Rakocevic (#31)

Rakocevic is a 6’11” / 225 lb senior forward. So far, he has played in all 12 games with 11 starts for an average of 26 minutes per contest. Rakocevic is averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds per game. Additionally, he is shooting 50% from floor and 63% (5/8) from 3. He is a great shooting big who seems to have put it all together for his senior year.

Isaiah Mobley (#15)

Mobley is a 6’10” / 235 lb freshman. He has had 4 starts on the season, but has played in every game for an average of 21 minutes a night. Already, Mobley shoots at a high percentage (55%) and has the ability to expand his range. As of now, he is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds per game.

Elijah Weaver (#3)

Weaver is a 6’6″ / 210 lb sophomore guard. He has started 11 games this year and averages 25 minutes a night. Although Weaver only scores about 7 points per game, he shoots a good percentage (38%) from 3. At this time, he is not relied on to score, but has reached double digit points 4 times this year.

Ethan Anderson (#20)

Anderson is 6’1″ / 210 lbs and another freshman who has made an early impact for USC. He has made 10 starts so far and plays about 23 minutes per night. Already, Anderson has taken on primary point guard duties and is currently averaging 6 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds per game.

Matchups

Guards

USC’s strength is its forwards. However, there are some quality guards on this team as well. The freshman, Anderson, is already able to man the point. Mathews, a senior, is the leader among this group, though. FGCU’s best players are guards but they lack experience. Caleb Catto has been Mr. Consistent so far. Zach Scott is a threat to take over when his shot is falling. Regardless, the FGCU guards will have their hands full.

Forwards

USC is probably the deepest team that FGCU will face this year. Furthermore, their strength is with the bigs. Okongwu is an insanely talented freshman who looks to be a surefire 1st round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. At 6’9″ / 245 lbs he is quick, athletic and strong. While the Trojans might lose Okongwu to the draft, Mobley is another big freshman forward that has shown promise. He is 6’10” / 235 lbs and already making an impact off the bench. In addition to youth, USC also has the 6’11” / 225 lb senior, Rakocevic. FGCU definitely comes up short in regard to size. Justus Rainwater will have his hands full trying to limit the production of the competition. Luckily, this will be Brian Thomas’ 3rd game back from injury so he can take some of that burden on himself. Dakota Rivers and Qwanzi Samuels could both get some action, especially if the Eagles try to play small.

Projected Starters

FGCUUSC
Jalen Harper (#20) – GEthan Anderson (#20) – G
Zach Scott (#1) – GJonah Mathews (#2) – G
Caleb Catto (#2) – GElijah Weaver (#3) – G
Tracy Hector (#13) – FNick Rakocevic (#31) – F
Justus Rainwater (#32) – FOnyeka Okongwu (#21) – F

Outlook

USC simply has better players. As coach Enfield has been with them for about 7 years, a culture and tradition has been established to where they have had continued success, year in and year out. FGCU and coach Fly are only a year and a half into building that same culture but it takes time. It is very unlikely that the Eagles win this game and that is just a fact. But confidence and progress can be gained from failure, especially against a strong USC team. The hope is that FGCU can play 2 solid halves of basketball against a top tier team and head into conference play on a bit of a high. One big thing that has been a factor in the Eagles’ games so far is the production of Jalen Warren. It seems like if he has a good game, the team plays well overall. This is a testament to just how important a true point guard is for this team. For FGCU to be competitive, Warren and/or Jalen Harper must be able to man the point effectively.

Predictions

Elliott Kresse (11-3)

“Santa brought coal. Hopefully, the Eagles are prepared enough to put up a good fight.” – Elliott

87-62 – USC

Russell Kelly (7-7)

“USC is a team that is on a whole different level of basketball than the current FGCU squad. All I can hope for is a decent game.” – Russell

77-59 – USC

Dawson Jordan (7-7)

It’s hard to have confidence about this game but it is a chance for FGCU to play one of the better teams in the nation heading into conference play.” – Dawson

82-50 – USC

Bryan Genter (7-7)

“The disappointment continues, but this time it’s against a very good USC team. Maybe FGCU can keep the game close.” – Bryan

80-55 – USC

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