PREVIEW: FGCU Looks to Rebound Against Florida National – (12-5-20)

The Eagles (1-1) return to the nest to face Florida National (2-9) on Saturday, 12/5. FGCU is coming off of a lopsided loss to USF and will be looking to work out some kinks against the Conquistadors. Below we will break down the opponent, go over some players to watch, discuss potential matchups and starting Lineups, and give our predictions for the game.

Florida National

The Conquistadors (NAIA) are 2-9 on the season They are coached by James Thatcher, who is a graduate of the university and has led the team for the past 8 seasons. Through his tenure, FNU has seen a lot of success at their level with several recent 20+ win seasons. From last year to now, it looks that the Conquistadors lost a lot of seniors as there are only 2 currently on the squad. Below, we will go over some of their players to keep an eye on in this one.

Players to Watch

Jeffrey Hernandez

Hernandez is a 6’4″ / 180 lb junior guard. He currently leads the Conquistadors with about 22 points, 6 rebounds, and just under 3 assists per game. He has played in 10 games this year, making 8 starts. He is currently shooting 46% from the floor this season but just 28% from beyond the arc. Hernandez is definitely a solid scorer for his team but he has a major turnover problem as well. Currently he averages 4 turnovers a game. This is something I’m sure Coach Fly and the Eagles will try to get after.

Kenneth Santos

Santos is one of the 2 seniors on this team. The 6’1″ / 175 lb guard has started all 10 games that he has appeared in and is averaging 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Santos appears to be a sharpshooter of sorts as he is shooting 42% from the floor (37% from 3) and a whopping 97% from the foul line. Similar to Hernandez, he has had somewhat of a turnover issue, averaging 3 per contest.

Jose Benitez

Benitez is the final senior on this squad. The 6’2″ / 205 lb guard is 3rd on the team with 14 points and 5 rebounds per outing. He has also started all 10 games he has played and presents as another good shooter for the Conquistadors (47% from the floor). Similar to his previously mentioned teammates, Benitez also has had trouble with turnovers, averaging 4 of them per game.

Hirotaka Ohashi

Based on stature alone, Ohashi may remind some FGCU fans of a certain former player. Standing at 5’3″ / 150 lbs, the sophomore has found ways to be productive for his team. He has played in 8 games, making 6 starts, and playing 33 minutes per outing. Ohashi looks to be a solid point guard for this team. Currently he is averaging 7 points, 3 rebounds, and an impressive 9 assists per game. These 9 assists are even more impressive considering he only turns the ball over about 2 times per contest.

Yamil Diaz

Diaz is the main contributing forward on their roster. At 6’6″ / 185 lbs, he doesn’t possess ideal size to match up with a D-I opponent. Still, the sophomore has played in 10 games and made 8 starts. In those games he is playing just under 18 minutes and still finding a way to average 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.

Matchups to Watch

Guards

Virtually all of Florida National’s production and experience comes from the backcourt. Their top 4 guards (in terms of minutes) combine for 64 points per game. With that said, 3 out of these 4 individuals have really struggled with turning the ball over. FGCU is no stranger to turnover troubles the past couple season. I expect Caleb Catto, Jalen Warren, and company to be on the attack and looking to force turnovers out of this team.

Forwards

From a pure size standpoint. This could be the biggest advantage in favor of FGCU that they encounter all year. The Conquistadors simply do not have the size that FGCU possesses. Diaz stands at 6’6″ but just 185 lbs. Outside of him, the only other forward who has given them real minutes is Marco Baggio, who stands at 6’6″ / 235. FNU actually does possess a few 6’9″ players and even a 7-footer, but none of them have suited up this season, most likely due to some sort of eligibility determinations. FGCU should truly have no problem in this area. The real question should be, how will they gameplan for this advantage. Will this be a situation where FGCU plays only 1 “big” at a time to keep up with their opponent’s heavy reliance on guards? Or is this a situation where the Eagles play their own game and try to dominate with size and athleticism?

Projected Starters

FGCUFNU
#5 Jalen Warren#10 Hirotaka Ohashi
#3 Franco Miller Jr.#3 Jose Benitez
#2 Caleb Catto#11 Kenneth Santos
#14 Ei Abaev#23 Jeffrey Hernandez
#32 Justus Rainwater#33 Yamil Diaz

Outlook

This is obviously a game that FGCU is expected to dominate. Through 2 previous games, there have been some shooting woes that I expect the Eagles to try and work out in this game. Dakota Rivers and Eli Abaev figure to have great games. I also expect Qwanzi Samuels to get involved some. Lastly, we can expect FGCU to play fast and run the floor. Luis Rolón could be on the giving end of quite a few highlights in this one and I’m personally, very excited for that.

Game Predictions

Russell Kelly (2-0)

“I’m expecting a lot of different contributors this game and a lot of offense. Players like Zach Anderson, Qwanzi Samuels, Victor Rosa, and Luis Rolón could get an extended look. Regardless, FGCU should dominate
one.”l

94-57 – FGCU

Elliott Kresse (1-1)

“I think it will be a game to get FGCU back on track and hopefully showcase their true potential.”

88-62 – FGCU

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