FGCU battled hard against NJIT but came up just short, losing 56-54. The game started in a strange way. A few non-calls, a questionable technical foul, and hot shooting from Zach Cooks helped the Highlanders to a quick 10-0 lead. The Eagles responded with an 11-5 run of their own. For the rest of the first half, the teams traded buckets. Cooks continued to dominate for NJIT and finished with 21 of their 32 halftime points. At the half, no other Highlander had more than 3 points. FGCU mustered up 26 in a well-balanced effort.
The 2nd half began with FGCU needing to somehow stifle Cooks’ production and have someone step up and lead on their own end. They managed to hold Cooks to only 4 second half points and outscored them 28 to 24 but the Highlanders were able to hit just enough shots at the end to hold onto the victory. Below we will highlight the good and bad from the game and take. A brief look at what’s next for the Eagles.
Catto has now scored in double figures in 6 straight games. He finished with 21 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. He also shot lights out as he went 70% from the floor, 83% from 3, and 100% from the charity stripe. Catto was the main catalyst for keeping the Eagles in the game and giving them a chance to win late.
The Eagles turned the ball over only 3 times in the first half and on only 8 occasions in the entire game. While this did not translate to a win, anytime this young group of players has a clean game, it is cause for acknowledgement.
The shooting performance as a team was excellent. The Eagles shot 47% from the floor as well as from 3. Again, this success in shooting the ball did not translate to a victory but there aren’t many occasions going forward where a team can shoot better than their opponent and turn the ball over significantly less and not win the game.
Especially in the first half, FGCU was totally out muscled on the boards. NJIT managed to pull down 8 offensive rebounds and secure second chance points, while the Eagles managed only 3. For the game, the Highlanders secured 29 boards compared to 22 from FGCU. The was one of the biggest reason NJIT was able to come out on top in this one.
FGCU continues to struggle against the opposing team’s best player. It makes sense that their best player plays well, of course, but there was no answer for Zach Cooks in the first half. He finished with 25 points for the Highlanders and was the main reason they were able to pull out a win. FGCU found an answer for him in the second half but it was too late.
Caleb Catto is becoming the expected player to lead the team in points every single game. He finished with 21 points on the night and has scored 44 points over the last 2 games. Justus Rainwater came through with some timely baskets and lots of energy as he scored 10 points and nabbed 5 rebounds. Jalen Warren had some tough moments but seems to have settled in as the primary point, finishing with a solid 9 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. He was a big part of the Eagles having a chance to win at the buzzer. Zach Scott had a fairly efficient game. He finished with 7 points including a clutch 3 late in the game to tie it up. Tracy Hector Jr had another well-rounded game. He played his heart out and battled through pain on his way to 5 points, 7 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
FGCU travels to Jacksonville to play the Dolphins on Thursday 1/30. The Eagles will be looking to get back into the win column to close out an interesting January. The parity of the ASUN is supremely evident this year so there are definite, late-season stakes in the line in this game.