PREVIEW: FGCU Hosts UNA to Close out the Regular Season – 2/29

Just a short time after taking care of business against JU, FGCU (10-20, 7-8) reopens the doors to Alico Arena for a battle against UNA (12-16, 7-8). The Eagles and Lions are currently tied for 5th place in the conference. Both teams are riding a 2-game winning streak and looking to head into the conference tournament on a high note. Last time these teams squared off, FGCU met UNA on the road and lost 70-65. This time around, the Eagles get a chance at redemption on their home floor. In their favor, UNA has only won 3 road games this season. Below we will take another look at the impact players for the Lions, discuss potential matchups, and give our outlook and predictions for the game.

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 28 games for them, playing 32 minutes a night. His averages have dipped slightly but he remains a constant threat with 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Last time against FGCU, Blackmon mostly contained but still managed 11 points and 3 assists while hitting some clutch free throws to help his team to victory.

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 played in 28 games for the Lions this year, making 25 starts and playing 30 minutes per outing. He is currently averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds per game. Earlier this season, Agnew dropped 17 points on the Eagles.

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 28 games for UNA, averaging about 23 minutes per outing. He has been an efficient shooter at 49% from the floor. He also has the ability to occasionally knock down perimeter shots (35%), though he attempts few of them (9-26). He is currently posting averages of 10 points and 5 rebounds on the season. James scored 13 points on the Eagles last time they played but was also forced into 5 turnovers.

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 28 games, making 27 starts and getting about 29 minutes per contest. Currently, he is averaging 9 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game. Brim had 13 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds last time against FGCU.

Emanuel Littles (#21)

Littles is a 6’7″ / 215 lb forward. He is another stud sophomore on this young team and has played in 25 games, making 21 starts. Littles comes up big in the rebounding department as he averages 11 boards per game. He also scores well around the basket, adding 8 points in 28 minutes a night. Littles scored 6 points and hauled in 9 rebounds against the Eagles earlier this year.

Projected Starters

FGCUUNA
Jalen Warren (#5) – GC.J. Brim (#11) – G
Zach Scott (#1) – GJamari Blackmon (#3) – G
Cyrus Largie (#4) – GChristian Agnew (#2) – G
Caleb Catto (#2) – GMervin James (#5) – F
Justus Rainwater (#32) – FEmanuel Littles (#21) – F

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 came to them as a transfer. The 3 of them form a strong backcourt. FGCU has a very similar story with Zach Scott and Caleb Catto along with a transfer like Jalen Warren. The Eagles get solid productivity from these 3 players as well as others like Sam Gagliardi and Cyrus Largie. The Lions, arguably, have better “scorers” on paper, but FGCU has more well rounded players at the guard spots.

Forwards

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 trots out Justus Rainwater (6’8″ / 235), who always makes opposing bigs earn what they get. Tracy Hector Jr has started many games for the Eagles this year, but has taken a 6th man type of role recently. He could play a lot of minutes matched up with the someone like Mervin James. Brian Thomas provides the muscle off the bench when needed. His 6’9″ / 260 lb frame can really take advantage of a smaller Lions team. Lastly, Dakota Rivers (6’8″ / 195) has flashed brightly in spots this year and is really a wildcard in every game. With him, there is always a chance he provides unexpected scoring and rebounding. 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.

The Outlook

What a perfect way to end the 2019-2020 season at Alico Arena with so many stakes on the line. Both teams are tied for 5th place and the winner will be sole owner of that spot heading into the ASUN tournament. Both squads have their own momentum and are looking for their 3rd straight victory. Last time these teams met, FGCU lost by 5 but never really seemed locked in as 4 Lions scored in double figures. It will have to be different this time around. If the Eagles come out with the same intensity and toughness that they displayed versus JU, they have a very good shot at winning this game and making noise in the tournament.

The Predictions

Elliott Kresse (23-7)

“FGCU carries momentum into the last conference game of the season and wins this one. The bigs will need to step up and use their size to secure a solid victory.” – Elliott

73-67 – FGCU

Russell Kelly (18-12)

“It all comes down to this at Alico Arena. Two teams fighting for seeding in what is sure to be a scrappy and competitive game. These teams are neck and neck and even have somewhat similar rosters and situations. As a fan, who am I to not pick FGCU?” – Russell

69-66 – FGCU

Dawson Jordan (17-13)

“FGCU has come a long way and the players look hungry for success. The Eagles will win this one against a similarly skilled UNA team.” – Dawson

70-62 – FGCU

Bryan Genter (18-12)

“FGCU seems to be gaining some momentum going into the ASUN tournament and this game is huge for seeding. I think the Eagles show up and win this one at home.” – Bryan

69-62 – FGCU