For the first time in Michael Fly’s tenure as head coach, FGCU is 1-0. Similar to our predictions, it wasn’t always pretty, but the Eagles got it done, like they should have. There were a couple of scoring droughts where is felt like FGCU couldn’t buy a bucket. Then there were scoring runs where they made it look easy. As Coach Fly stated in the first virtual post-game presser of the season, “A win is a win.” Below we will break down some of the finer points of the game and briefly touch on what’s next for the Eagles.
One of the biggest indicators of good things to come for the Eagles was just how deep they appear to be. 11 players checked into the game and 9 of them scored. Compare that to FAMU who had 9 players check in, but only 6 players scored. This added depth helped the Eagles fend off FAMU’s game plan against them. It was clear that the Rattlers’ plans were to press Jalen Warren to try generate turnovers and neutralize Eli Abaev in the post at all costs. Both of these tactics worked for them to an extent, but because of depth, FGCU was able to overcome that. One great example of the depth can be found in the starting lineup. Newcomer and redshirt sophomore, Franco Miller Jr. got the nod to start for the Green and Blue and didn’t disappoint. Miller is a PG/SG combo and having him and Warren against the press allowed them to get down the court more easily. Another example is Eli Abaev, who found himself in foul trouble. FGCU was able to regularly sub in players like Justus Rainwater, Zach Anderson, and Dakota Rivers without losing anything from a production standpoint.
One of the main factors in winning this game was always going to be the rebounding battle. FGCU won said battle 30-24 in large part, due to a balanced effort. 7 players had 3 or more rebounds for the Eagles, compared to just 3 players for the Rattlers.
After watching the opening game of the season, assistant coach Donnie Marsh might be due for a raise here soon. His “GloveUp” creation and defensive coaching seems to have worked wonders for this team. FAMU was consistently forced into taking tough shots and the Eagles forced 20 turnovers out of them. FGCU’s grit shined through as well. They wound up with 9 steals on the backs Caleb Catto and freshman Luis Rolon, who had 4 and 3 respectively.
One characteristic from last season that carried itself over to this first game is FGCU’s turnover tendencies. After the game, Fly inferred that this will likely be a problem for most teams early in the season due to shortened off-season programs. Additionally, Fly stated that he feels the 23 turnovers were more a result of carelessness, which can be resolved in time, rather than being overmatched by the opponent.
FGCU was favored to win this game by 15 and ended up winning by 9. At one point late in the game, the Eagles were up by 17, which is more indicative of how the game really went. There are many reasons to be excited about this roster. The ability of young guys and newcomers to play and be effective this early is a positive sign. Luis Rolón was dropping dimes and giving fans flashbacks of a former FGCU point guard known for his passing. Dom London shot the ball with extreme confidence and showed off his long-range ability. Dakota Rivers looked improved in his rebounding and defensive play. There were so many other signs of positivity to go around but for the sake of not rambling or putting too much stock into one game, we will end it here.
“Different from past seasons” is probably a phrase we will be writing a lot this season. In true Covid fashion, this year’s schedule will likely remain fluid. As of now, FGCU is scheduled to host NAIA opponent, Florida National University for their next game on 12/5 at 7:00 PM. Coach Fly has stated that there are still 2 games they are looking to potentially add to the non Conference schedule and one of those could be before the Florida National game. Stay tuned for any updates on that matter.