RECAP: FGCU Hangs on in 63-61 Win Over Jacksonville

Following 2 straight losses and a fall from 3rd to 8th in the ASUN standings, FGCU (7-16, 4-4) traveled north to take on Jacksonville (10-13, 3-5). The game started off with each squad doing doing a good impression of the other. If Jacksonville hit a 3, FGCU hit a 3. If FGCU missed a jumper, Jacksonville did the same. The game stayed even for most of the 1st half. FGCU was able establish a 4-point lead on 2 different occasions. The last of which was achieved off a Zach Scott 3-pointer and a layup from Jalen Warren to send the Eagles into the locker room up 32-28.

Jalen Warren continued his momentum going into the second half as he scored the first 5 points. The Eagles extended their lead to 10 points on a 3 from Caleb Catto. The Dolphins slowly chipped away at this lead but FGCU was able to push it back to 10 with under 9 minutes left on another Catto 3-pointer. Jacksonville closed the gap down the stretch and neither team led by more than 3 points the remainder of the game. With the game tied up at 61-61, Jalen Warren jogged down the court, made moves, and hit Jacksonville with a floater with 5 seconds left to secure a victory for FGCU.

Below we will go over the good and bad in the game and take a brief look at what’s next for the Eagles.

The Good

Rebounding

The teams tied the rebounding battle at 38 a piece. Jacksonville is one of the better rebounding teams in the ASUN though. They are led by double-double machine, David Bell, who can pull down 10 rebounds with relative ease. FGCU was able to somewhat minimize his impact and limit him to only 4 rebounds. Some other members of the team stepped up but the Eagles were able to match them board for board.

Turnovers

FGCU turned the ball over only 7 times, which marks their lowest total of the season. After averaging 18 turnovers per game in the nonconference portion of the season, the Eagles are averaging 14 per game in ASUN play. FGCU has played a cleaner brand of basketball recently and needs to continue doing so to stay competitive and have a chance going forward.

Notable Contributions

Caleb Catto continued his stellar play with a 20-point, 5 rebound, and 3 assist performance against Jacksonville. He has now score 20 or more points in 3 straight games and is averaging 21 ppg in that span. In ASUN play, he is averaging 16 ppg. Over the last 7 games, that average is up to 18 ppg. Jalen Warren once again showed that he has ice in his veins when he hit the would-be game winning shot. He finished with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Since conference play began, Warren is averaging 11 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. Zach Scott made his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the last 8 games. He ended the night with 11 points and 3 rebounds while shooting 43% from 3. His shots were timely as he scored the first 5 points, helped establish a halftime lead, and played a part in extending the second half lead enough to win the game. Tracy Hector Jr played a huge role in neutralizing the Dolphins’ usual dominance on the glass. He was able to pull down 8 rebounds while scoring 4 points and dishing out 3 assists. Lastly, Brian Thomas probably had his best game since returning from injury. He played 23 minutes and was able to score 4 points, grab 9 rebounds, block 2 shots, and get 2 steals. This game was a reminder of just how good a healthy Brian Thomas can be on the defensive end.

The Bad

Defense

Throughout the game, FGCU’s defense looked slow to rotate and was often late in closing out on the perimeter. They allowed Jacksonville to shoot 40% from the floor and 38% from deep. Additionally, the Eagles had no answer for Jacksonville’s Destin Barnes, who shot the lights out from 3 and had his way in the post.

Finishing Games

The way this game ended is yet another reminder of the season-long story of just how young and inexperienced this team is at the D-I level. The Eagles were up by 10 points on 2 separate occasions in the 2nd half. Both times, they allowed the Dolphins to hang around and even take the lead. This team is still learning how to win, but the fact that they have been competitive in all but 2 conference games thus far is a definite sign that they have made strides in that area.

What’s Next?

Up next, FGCU has a quick turnaround as they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to take on the Liberty Flames on Saturday, 2/1. Liberty is currently tied for 1st place in the conference after being the assumed favorite to win the ASUN. After being upset by UNF and Stetson, Liberty bounced back with a near 40-point win over Kennesaw. The Eagles will be looking to further upset this talented Liberty squad.

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