The stage was set for the Eagles to begin conference play at home against the Flames. Unfortunately, FGCU came out flat and struggled much of the game, falling to 3-13 (0-1) on the season to Liberty (15-1, 1-0).
To begin, only Jalen Warren seemed ready for the spotlight as he scored the team’s first 4 points. The Eagles would then fail to score a bucket for over 8 minutes, managing only those 4 points through the opening 12:11. Fortunately, FGCU’s defense was good enough to somewhat stifle the offensive production of Liberty and keep the game from getting too out of hand. At halftime, the Flames led the Eagles 30-16.
Following what was sure to be an intense halftime speech from coach Michael Fly, FGCU came out in the 2nd half with much more intensity. They battled back and narrowed the deficit down to 10. Unfortunately, the Eagles had no answer for the Flames’ Caleb Homesley who torched FGCU with 24 points on 10/14 shooting. The game was kept close by some good shooting from Sam Gagliardi but ultimately, the Eagles lost 59-46.
Defense / Rebounding
The biggest piece of silver lining in this loss is that FGCU was able to hold a very good Liberty squad to only 59 points. For the most part, the defensive rotation looked to to be flowing seamlessly. This led to a few steals and 10 forced turnovers that helped the Eagles stay in the game. In a defensive game, FGCU also won the rebounding battle 26-22.
Warren had maybe the best performance out of all the Eagles in this game. He scored 12 points on 5/10 shooting. Warren was also the only FGCU player to play more than 30 minutes (35) and dished out 7 assists to only 2 turnovers. The Eagles will need this type of play from Warren on a consistent basis if they hope to have success going forward.
In Gagliardi’s 2nd game back from a concussion, he managed to be one of the bright spots in this contest. He shot 4/6 from deep, was perfect at the line (2/2), and finished the game with 14 points. He also played good defense and managed 3 steals in the game. Sam’s performance is encouraging, but he will need more help from the team’s key players like Zach Scott and Caleb Catto for the team to have success.
1st Half Shooting
FGCU shot the ball in an abysmal way in the opening stanza. Particularly, in the first 13 minutes of the game, the Eagles shot 2/13 from the floor (15%). They ended the first half shooting 5/23 (22%). This type of ineffectiveness in almost an entire half has plagued the Eagles too many times this season. Against a team as good as Liberty, the first half hole was too deep to dig themselves out of.
The season-long turnover frenzy extended itself to this game. The Eagles were forced to 18 turnovers compared to only 10 by the Flames. This guided Liberty to 12 steals and plenty of extra shots. FGCU committed a manageable 7 turnovers in the 1st half. In the 2nd half, that number increased to 11, thwarting any real hope at a comeback. Turnovers were spread throughout the team in this game. Additionally, when a team turns the ball over, they must make up for it in other areas (steals, blocks, assists, etc.). The Eagles had several players commit 1 or 2 turnovers but did not offset their mistakes with redeeming play. For example, Same Gagliardi led the team in points and racked up an impressive 3 steals. He also committed 4 turnovers, essentially negating his stellar defense.
As stated, the Eagles came out of the gates extremely flat in this game. Coach Michael Fly noted this and was obviously very disappointed, stating “we looked almost listless, most of our guys looked like a deer in headlights… We were very timid in the first half.. didn’t throw the first punch”. The FGCU players must come out swinging if they want to avoid these lulls going forward.
FGCU has a 1 day turnaround as they are set to play Lipscomb at home on Saturday, 1/4. After a tough game, a quick turnaround is often good for the players as it does not allow for time to stew too much on this loss. This next game is also a chance to prove to themselves and the fans that they can hang with most conference opponents.