PREVIEW: FGCU Travels to UNA to Battle with the Lions – 1/18

On a short turnaround, FGCU (6-14, 3-2) travels to Alabama to face UNA (7-11, 2-3). Like the Eagles, the Lions are a very young team. They feature 8 underclassmen and have only 1 senior. Last year, UNA earned their first ASUN win when they upset FGCU. The Eagles exacted revenge the second time around though. These teams have squared off a total of 3 times, the first of which occurred in December of 2005. UNA holds a 2-1 record against the Eagles all-time. The Lions are 2-3 in conference to this point. Most recently, they rallied late only to lose to Stetson 54-49 in a game that saw them down 19 in the 2nd half. Below we will take a look at some of the key players for UNA, go over potential matchups, discuss the outlook for the game, and give our predictions.

The Players

Jamari Blackmon (#3)

Blackmon is a 6’1″ / 205 lb sophomore guard for the Lions. As a freshman, he averaged 15 points per game and earned ASUN Freshman POY honors. This year he has started all 18 games for them, playing 31 minutes a night. His averages have dipped slightly but he remains a constant threat with 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.

Christian Agnew (#2)

Agnew is 6’2″ / 190 lbs and another talented sophomore guard. Last year he finished as the second leading scorer among freshmen in the ASUN with 11 points, behind teammate Jamari Blackmon. Agnew has been in 18 games for the Lions this year, making 15 starts and playing 29 minutes per outing. He is currently averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds per game.

Mervin James (#5)

James is a 6’7″ / 215 lb freshman forward. He has impressed early in his career and is already trusted to play a significant role. James has started all 18 games for UNA, averaging about 23 minutes per outing. He has been an efficient shooter at 53% from the floor. He also has the ability to knock down perimeter shots (46%), though he attempts few of them (5/11). He is currently posting averages of 9 points and 4 rebounds on the season.

C.J. Brim (#11)

Brim is in his first year at UNA after transferring. He is a 5’9″ / 170 lb junior, who often acts as the primary ball handler for the Lions. Brim has played in 18 games, making 17 starts and getting about 28 minutes per contest. Currently, he is averaging 8 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds per game.

Emanuel Littles (#21)

Littles is a 6’7″ / 215 lb forward. He is another stud sophomore on this young team and has played in 15 games, making 12 starts. Littles comes up big in the rebounding department as he averages 10 boards per game. He also scores well around the basket, adding 7 points in 26 minutes a night.

Payton Youngblood (#14)

Youngblood is a 6’5″ / 200 lb redshirt junior forward. He dealt with an injury last season and was granted a medical redshirt year. He has come back to play in 17 games so far, making 4 starts early in the season. Youngblood has been great off the bench for the Lions, playing about 20 minutes a game. In those minutes, he is averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds.

The Matchups

Guards

UNA has a very talented duo of young guards in Blackmon and Agnew. These individuals played a ton of minutes as freshmen and have comfortably taken on leadership roles this season. They are joined by Brim, who comes to them as a transfer. The 3 of them form a strong backcourt. FGCU has a similar story with Zach Scott and Caleb Catto. Catto has improved a significant amount in his sophomore season. Scott (like Blackmon) has had his up and down moments, but remains a threat. The Eagles get solid productivity from other players like Jalen Warren and Sam Gagliardi to help round out their backcourt. The Lions may have better “scorers” on paper but FGCU has more well rounded players at the guard spots.

Forwards

As of now, UNA severely lacks size in the frontcourt. Littles and James stand at only 6’7″. Youngblood is a regular contributor but has more of a guard’s build at 6’5″ / 200 lbs. FGCU will trot out Justus Rainwater (6’8″ / 235), Tracy Hector (6’5″ / 230), Dakota Rivers (6’8″ / 200), Brian Thomas (6’9″ / 260), and Qwanzi Samuels (6’8″ / 200). The Eagles’ rotation of bigs features a lot more depth and size as well as the athleticism to match up with UNA and potentially dominate.

Projected Starters

FGCUUNA
Jalen Warren – G (#5)C.J. Brim – G (#11)
Sam Gagliardi – G (#15)Jamari Blackmon – G (#3)
Caleb Catto – G (#2)Christian Agnew – G (#2)
Tracy Hector Jr. – F (#13)Mervin James – F (#5)
Justus Rainwater – F (#32)Emanuel Littles – F (#21)

The Outlook

UNA has a solid group of contributors that are young in years but on a steep upward trend. FGCU looks to be finding itself a bit as they are 3-1 in their last 4 games. This has all the makings of down-to-the-wire, physical game that each team has a chance to win. The Eagles have 3 winnable matchups on the horizon. A win against UNA would be a great start to making believers out of a lot of people who have doubted this team’s growth.

The Predictions

Elliott Kresse (15-5)

“The Eagles are riding a 2 win high but I think UNA comes out hot and does enough to get past FGCU.” – Elliott

72-68 – UNA

Russell Kelly (12-8)

“I expect this to be an extremely close game and one that either team can win. I think the Eagles take another step forward and earn their 3rd win in a row against here against UNA.” – Russell

68-66 – FGCU

Dawson Jordan (11-9)

“Even with a W in their back pocket, turnovers struggles still loomed for the Eagles last game. Continued struggles in that area will lead to a UNA win.” – Dawson

74-70 – UNA

Bryan Genter (12-8)

“The Eagles and Lions will keep it close all game. FGCU finds a way to pull out a W on the road.” – Bryan

66-62 – FGCU