In their 3rd game of the season, FGCU (2-1) beat Florida National by a score of 91-74. To recap the game, below are my 5 Eagles Things.
Turnover Problems Persist
Unfortunately, even against a lesser opponent, FGCU’s turnover struggles continued in a big way. The Eagles turned it over 21 times and that played a huge part in why FNU was able to stick around for the entirety of the game. Coach Fly has attributed the turnovers this year to being careless with the ball. This time it also appeared that there was a lack of respect for what FNU players were capable of doing. It was obvious before the game that FGCU is the better team and that became more clear when the game started. Players began forcing passes and trying to make plays, looking for a spot on the highlight reel, rather than making the easy pass or settling for a good shot. Games against a team like FNU should be an opportunity to try things that you’re working on that maybe you aren’t ready to try against same-level competition, but not to the extent of passing up easy buckets and turning the ball over as much as they did. Even beyond hero ball, turnover issues have plagued this team for years and, while it’s still early, it could be something the Eagles will have to overcome all season long.
Continued Shooting Woes
Between the end of last season and the start of this season. FGCU revamped the roster to acquire more consistent outside shooting. So far this season, the shooting woes that held the team back in many ways, have persisted. Teams like FGCU schedule games against D-2, D-3, and NAIA opponents for many reasons. One of which is to work out kinks and struggles to prepare for tougher opponents and conference play in the future. In their first game against FAMU they shot just 29% from beyond the arc. In their 2nd game, versus USF, the Eagles shot a putrid 23% from 3. And most recently, against FNU, the team shot just 24% from the perimeter. With the exception of Caleb Catto (5/10) nobody shot better than 33% from deep. The rest of the team combined to go 3/23 (13%) for the game, and 0/13 in the 2nd half (when FNU started making their comeback). The Eagles have to find a way to shoot themselves out of this funk because turning the ball over, in combination with shooting a low percentage, will not win you many ballgames. As said, it is still early in the season and FGCU has at least 4 games to figure things out before the conference slate.
The last negative that I’ll touch on from this game is the defense. Generally, even through the struggles of the last 2 seasons, this team has been able to limit the opponent’s scoring, to an extent, and keep their percentages low. Watching the defense in this game, it almost looked at times like they were rotating at half speed. This goes back to not taking your opponent seriously. In the second half, FNU’s extremely animated Coach Thatcher was able to scheme his sharp shooting guards in favorable positions. Slow to rotate defenders, the Eagles were then forces into unfavorable matchups with their bigs guarding the perimeter. Those sharp shooting Conquistadors would either shoot the ball before the mismatched FGCU defender could close out, or they’d side step the leaping defender and sink their shot. This was a huge reason why FNU was able to hang around and claw back in the 2nd half.
Ultimately, the reason FGCU was able to hold on and win this game by 16 points is because of their talent and the performance of some main contributors. This charge was obviously led by Caleb Catto. He finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jalen Warren finished with 20 points of his own to go along with 6 assists. Rising star, Cyrus Largie chipped in on the boards in a big way, earning his first double-double and finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Eli Abaev also earned his 1sr double-double as an Eagle with 10 points and 10 rebounds. At the very least, It seems like the starters, and at least a couple other guys, are ready to play and contribute. For depth purposes, Coach Fly will be evaluating which other players are prepared and ready to stay in rotation once conference season begins.
Minutes for Younger Players
12 out of 13 scholarship players saw minutes in this game. Unfortunately, due to not pulling away and increasing their lead, younger players saw less minutes than Coach Fly probably would have liked. Still, Zach Anderson, Luis Rolón, and Victor Rosa all got minutes and experience which will only help them as they progress in their careers.
The Eagles should in no way be let off the hook for an uninspired performance in a game they should have dominated throughout. Still, if FGCU dominated and won by 60, people would be cautioning against the validity of the performance because of the opponent’s NAIA status. My overall point is that, if you shouldn’t read too much into a big win against this team, then you shouldn’t read too much into a closer-than-ideal win either. I realize there is a track record to consider here as well and that plays a part in some of the worries that fans have going forward. Still, how one team plays another, versus how you play each of those teams, has little correlation. For example, last season, Stetson upset South Carolina. At another point in the season, FGCU beat Stetson. That absolutely doesn’t mean that last year’s Eagles would have beaten South Carolina if they had squared off. While things carry over during a season, games are in many ways like episodes in an overarching story. Lets hope that the shooters start hitting their shots and turnovers get cut to a manageable level. If this happens, it will be a fun season. If not, it could be a long one.
Up next for the Eagles is the “big game” on the non Conference schedule this year. FGCU travels a couple of hours east, across Alligator Alley, to face the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday, 12/12, at 12PM. No fans will be in attendance. Game preview to follow!