PREVIEW: FGCU Gears Up for a Clean Sweep of Stetson – 2/6

FGCU (7-17, 4-5) returns home for a Thursday night bout with Stetson (12-12, 6-3). Stetson has been a surprisingly strong ASUN contender. They have upsets over Liberty and UNF but lost to UNF the second time around. Last time these teams squared off, FGCU stole an overtime victory over the Hatters 66-62. In their last game, Stetson narrowly escaped with a 55-53 victory over Lipscomb. The Eagles, on the other hand, stumbled to a 15 point loss (61-46) to Liberty. Below we will revisit the impact players for the Hatters, discuss potential matchups, and give our predictions for the game.

The Players

Mahamadou Diawara (#15)

Diawara is a very impressive freshman for Stetson. He is a 6’10” / 235 lb forward/center and has wasted no time in acclimating himself to D-I basketball. He has played in all 24 games for the Hatters, making 23 starts. He is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He has proved that he can go up against collegiate talent and use his body to dominate smaller opponents. His effectiveness has surprisingly dropped off in ASUN play though. Against FGCU, Diawara was limited to 6 points but was strong on the boards, hauling in 9 rebounds.

Rob Perry (#2)

Perry is another great get for Stetson. He is a 6’3″ / 210 lb freshman guard who has started all 24 games, averaging 32 minutes played. Perry completely went off last time these teams played each other, finishing with 27 points and showcasing limitless range. He has continued to be an elite shooter for the Hatters as he is shooting 46% from the floor and 45% from 3. On the season, he leads the team with 16 points per game while contributing 5 rebounds a night.

Christiaan Jones (#0)

Jones is a 6’5″ / 195 lb junior guard and an experienced voice on an otherwise very young team. He has played in all 24 of their games, making 14 starts. In about 28 minutes per game, Jones is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds.

Jahlil Rawley (#4)

Rawley is a 6’4″ / 185 lb senior guard in his 2nd season with the Hatters. He has played in 24 games, making 8 starts. In about 25 minutes a night, Rawley is averaging 6 points, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. He is currently shooting 51% from the floor and 43% from deep.

Wheza Panzo (#1)

Panzo is another promising freshman for the Hatters. He is a 6’7″ / 190 lb guard/forward combo. He has played in all 24 of their games and has made 10 starts. He gets about 25 minutes per game and is currently posting averages of 5 points and 4 rebounds.

Matchups

Guards

Stetson’s production is definitely guard-based. Freshman Rob Perry has been a complete stud this season. Christiaan Jones, Kenny Aninye, and Jahlil Rawley are players that have been with the Hatters and continue to lead the team in different ways. For FGCU, Caleb Catto has emerged as a true force. After 7 straight games in double figures (3 straight with 20+ points), Catto scored 9 points (all in 2nd half) last time out. Earlier this season, he scored 19 points against Stetson. Furthermore, Zach Scott has returned to the starting lineup for a couple games after 8 games off the bench. He has responded with 2 straight double-digit scoring performances. Jalen Warren has done the same, scoring 18 and 20 points, respectively. Still, the FGCU guards have struggled to defend the perimeter for a couple games now. Containing Rob Perry should be top priority.

Forwards

Diawara has been huge (literally) for the Hatters in his freshman campaign. He is big and strong but also possesses the required finesse of a well-rounded big man. Outside of him, Stetson doesn’t have much production by way of their bigs. Joel Kabimba and Wheza Panzo are really the only other players that get minutes at the forward spots. Justus Rainwater will again be relied on to minimize Diawara’s impact. Last time these two battled, Diawara was held to 6 points but managed to corral 9 boards. Rainwater scored and grabbed a cool 7 points and 7 rebounds. As Stetson lacks production from their depth, FGCU’s Brian Thomas and/or Dakota Rivers could see minutes in relief and have strong showings. As long as Diawara is kept in relative check, this matchup is most likely a wash.

Projected Starters

FGCUStetson
Jalen Warren (#5) – GKenny Aninye (#10) – G
Zach Scott (#1) – GRob Perry (#2) – G
Caleb Catto (#2) – GChristiaan Jones (#0) – G
Tracy Hector Jr (#13) – FJoel Kabimba (#35) – F
Justus Rainwater (#32) – FMahamadou Diawara (#15) – F

The Outlook

To the surprise of most, Stetson is the rightful 3rd place team in the ASUN right now. Therefore, FGCU’s overtime victory over the Hatters last month is probably their best win in conference play so far. The Eagles have already been officially swept by Liberty but have a chance to sweep a quality Stetson squad at home in Alico Arena. Rob Perry almost single-handedly won the game for Stetson last time these teams played. If his production is limitted, FGCU has the advantage with the sheer number of guys who can score. If Catto and the Eagles can get quality production from their guards and Rainater can neutralize Diawara, FGCU should walk out of Alico with a victory and a sweep of the Hatters.

The Predictions

Elliott Kresse (19-5)

“The Eagles will find a way to contain Rob Perry this time around and grind out a tough win in Alico.” – Elliott

68-64 – FGCU

Russell Kelly (14-10)

“It would be great for FGCU to pull out a solid win at home against Stetson. I could see this game going either way but I’m leaning toward Stetson.”

63-59 – Stetson

Dawson Jordan (13-11)

“The Eagles are coming off a bad loss to liberty. Stetson notably upset Liberty and UNF. The Hatters have always played tough in Alico.” – Dawson

65-63 – Stetson

Bryan Genter (13-11)

“FGCU barely escaped Deland with an overtime win earlier this year. Stetson has had some big wins since then and should be a confident bunch. For this reason I expect them to win.” – Bryan

68-60 – Stetson