FGCU (10-21, 7-9) played an extremely tough game against UNA (13-16, 8-8) but, unfortunately, came up short in an OT loss. It was Senior Day at Alico so Tracy Hector Jr made his return to the starting lineup. Additionally, scout team guys, Ryan Rocuant and Kyle Hoffman got their first career starts. To begin the game, Rocuant won the tip, positioned himself in the low post, caught the ball, and out-muscled 2 defenders on his way to the first made bucket of his career. The rest of the first half was a game of runs and back-and-forth basketball. FGCU looked like they would be taking a 3 point lead into the half, but UNA hit a buzzer beater 3 to tie it up at 31-31.
The 2nd half was a lot more of the same as the teams traded blows early. About 5 minutes in, the Eagles began to pull away a bit. With under 13 to play, FGCU increased their lead to 8 points. From then on, UNA started hitting shots, questionable calls went their way, and FGCU became plagued by the turnovers that had been piling up all game. With 23 seconds left, the Lions tied it up at 63-63 on a pair of free throws. FGCU had the last shot but blundered the attempt, forcing a last second 3 from Caleb Catto.
Not much went the way of the Eagles in OT and UNA was able to take their momentum and fuel a 5 point victory, giving them sole possession of 5th place in the ASUN standings. Below we will highlight the notable contributions from the game, give our final takeaways, and take a look at what’s next for the Eagles.
Jalen Warren led the Eagles with 19 points while dishing out 5 assists. He shot 67% from the floor and 50% from 3 and also came up with a clutch block in what looked to be an easy fast-break layup for the opposing team. But it was also a sloppy game for FGCU and Warren led the team with 6 turnovers. Malik Hardy has been a great spark off the bench for the Eagles in the last couple of games. He has brought out a toughness and intensity in the team and the way that they play. That continued against UNA as Hardy finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 clutch steals. He shot 56% from the floor and 75% from beyond the arc. Hardy could not escape the turnover plague and was forced into 5 of his own. Zach Scott saw action off the bench in this game to make room for all of the seniors in the starting lineup. He did not disappoint as he scored 15 points while shooting 67% from the floor and 60% from downtown for one of his better shooting performances on the season. Caleb Catto finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Lastly, a special shoutout goes to senior Ryan Rocuant, who scored the first basket of his career.
The number one thing that damned the Eagles in this game was the amount of turnovers they racked up. In less than 10 minutes, FGCU already had 9 and was well on their way to 18 for the game.
For the second time against the Lions, FGCU was unable to really make noise in the paint. The Eagles were dominated in the battle for points in the paint and this was, in large part, due to their struggle to secure rebounds. The Eagles finished with 25 rebounds compared to 34 from UNA.
On a more encouraging note, this was one of the better shooting performances that the Eagles have showcased all season. They shot 52% from the floor and 42% from beyond the arc. Over the last couple of games, it really looks like FGCU is forming an identity as far as playing physical and tough, securing fast break points, and kicking it out to the perimeter for reliable 3-point shooting.
FGCU is officially the 6th seed in the ASUN. Before this past game, they were in a battle for the 5th seed and an opportunity to face (then 4th seed) Lipscomb in the opening round of the ASUN tournament. After the games and some shakeup in the conference standings, Lipscomb has moved to 3rd place and FGCU will end up playing then in the opening round after all. The Eagles split the series with both of those teams this year but especially had trouble with Rob Perry of Stetson. In that sense, playing Lipscomb is a relief. At the same time, Lipscomb is chock full of shooters and scorers alike. FGCU will have to try their luck and test their mettle on the road against the Bisons on Tuesday, March 3rd.