The Eagles (7-18, 4-6) welcomed the Hatters (13-12, 7-3) to Alico on Thursday 2/6. Stetson has been a surprise this season and has emerged as one of the top teams in the conference, while also being one of the youngest squads. The game started off competitive and remained so throughout. After misses from both teams, Jalen Warren hit a 3 to put the Eagles up 3-0. They would trade buckets until Stetson went on a mini run to go up 13-7. There were plenty of missed shots from both teams but FGCU began to find their footing and took the lead (25-24) with just over 2:00 remaining in the first half. Unfortunately the last 2 minutes swung heavily in the favor of Stetson. Missed free throws and missed shots gave Stetson the ball back several times. Finally, on what would have been a solid defensive possession from FGCU, Rob Perry of the Hatters picked up the ball and heaved it in for a buzzer beater 3.
To start the second half, the Eagles started making shots and quickly tied the game up at 32-32. For the rest of the game, it seemed every time FGCU got close, Stetson would turn it on and extend the lead. With just under 7 minutes left, the Hatters held a 9 point lead. The score stayed that way for several minutes until the Eagles, again, began battling back. There was a refreshed sense of urgency to rebound the ball and shots started falling. With 1:16 left in the game, Caleb Catto hit a 3 to trim the deficit to 62-59. With only :31 seconds left, Jalen Warren hit a 3 (63-62). FGCU was forced to foul who else but Rob Perry, who sank both of his free throws. The Eagles ended up with the ball but bungled their final shot attempt, losing 65-62. Below, we will take a look at the notable contributions, the areas for improvement, and have a brief look at who’s next for the Eagles.
Zach Scott led the team with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. His defensive play kept the Eagles in the game and his efficiency on the boards was huge. Caleb Catto had a rough go of it in the 1st half but made some noise in the 2nd when his shot started falling. He finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Jalen Warren had good night for FGCU, finishing with 14 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists to go along with zero turnovers. Tracy Hector Jr battled hard and had another well-rounded game. He managed 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Cyrus Largie has been a total surprise this year. The Eagles looked lethargic on the court to start the game. As soon as Largie checked in, he made great passes, played with energy, hit a 3-pointer, and injected life into the team. He finished with just 5 points and 2 assists but also looked to be one of the players that could have the defensive ability to contain Rob Perry.
Areas for Improvement
Guarding Rob Perry (again)
If you weren’t sold on Rob Perry after the first time these teams played, then you should be now. He dropped 27 on the Eagles last time around, showing limitless range. This time, he put up 24 points and reminded FGCU of his range by hitting a deep buzzer beater 3 to end the first half. The Eagles seemingly have no answer for how to slow him down. Caleb Catto looks to play him well one on one, but Perry still somehow makes the shots more often than not when well guarded. Should these teams meet again this year, I could see Cyrus Largie getting a lot of minutes matched up against Rob Perry, as he is shaping up to be one of the best on ball defenders on the team.
FGCU lost the rebounding battle by only 1 (32-31) but that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. If it weren’t for the rebounding prowess of guards like Catto and Scott or the undersized forward, Hector Jr, FGCU would have been doomed from the start. For most of the game, the Eagles’ bigs were completely outmatched on the boards.
For about the 3rd straight game, FGCU has allowed the opposing team to shoot very well from beyond the arc. Stetson shot 44% from 3-point land. They only made 7 in the game but picked and chose when to make FGCU pay for it. This has to be tightened up going forward, especially with who the next opponent is.
FGCU stays home for a rematch with UNF. Last time these teams squared up, the Ospreys rained down a storm of 3-pointers that FGCU just couldn’t keep up with. Last night against Stetson, the Eagles did a good job of finding open 3s. Unfortunately in that game, they simply didn’t go into the hoop. However, if FGCU can find a similar number of good attempts and convert a realistic number of them, this game could be much more competitive.