After 3 weeks without a game and only a few days to condition and practice for their opponent, FGCU squared up for back-to-back games against Bellarmine University. In this new format of back-to-back Friday and Saturday games, I’ll be delivering my 5 Eagles Thing by mid-week and they will encompass both of the previous weekend’s games, with a full Recap available on Thursdays or Fridays. With that said, here are 5 of my main takeaways from a disappointing weekend.
Rollercoaster of Fatigue
The first thing that comes to mind from FGCU’s opening ASUN games is the fatigue that certainly played a part in the outcome. To properly illustrate this up-and-down ride, these games can be broken into 4 halves. The first half saw the Eagles looking like a team that hasn’t played in 3 weeks (they hadn’t). The second half saw a return to the quality of basketball we’ve seen for most of this year. To start the 2nd game game, the first half was mostly a continuation of the prior game. FGCU had minimal turnovers, some excellent team shooting percentages, and took a lead into halftime. Unfortunately, things unravelled in an ugly way in that final half. The Eagles looked slower in their rotations and sloppier with the basketball. Shooting percentages plumeted and they could not keep up. Each of these is a sign of major fatigue, which is equally understandable and unfortunate for a team that was on the rise, prior to being shut down.
Bellarmine is Real
When asked about whether the disappointing results of this series and whether it was a microcosm of “good Bellarmine” or the circumstances surrounding the Eagles’ return to the court, Coach Fly was candid. He stated that there is definitely a balance between the two. Coach was visibly upset by the losses as these were games he expected to win. At the same time, he acknowledged his respect for Bellarmine’s program and their Head Coach Scott Davenport. From the eye test, Bellarmine looks to be extremely well coached. They are in no way the most athletic team and really have no true “bigs” that actually function as “bigs” (playing down low and rebounding). But they possess decent versatility and a crop of excellent shooters. Additionally, they stress passing the ball, frequently passing up looks for the sake of finding a better shot and draining the shot clock. Bellarmine played Notre Dame extremely tough and hung with ASUN favorites, Lipscomb, for the entirety of their 2 games against them. The Knights are not your average D-II team making the jump to D-I. They look like they can compete now and potentially finish in the top half of the conference.
A bright spot from these games was the performance of promising freshman, Luis Rolón. In the first game, he finished with 7 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. In the 2nd game, he scored a career high 11 points to go along with 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. Over the course of the series, he averaged 9 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. This young player for the Eagles is already one of the best point guards in the ASUN and he is continuing to prove that, despite the team’s more recent struggles.
Catto was about the only player on the team to shoot the ball well in both games. He scored a total of 27 points on 11/20 (55%) shooting and 5/12 (42%) from beyond the arc. He scored 15 and 12 points respectively. Catto led the comeback attempt in the 1st game and was a big part of keeping them in the 2nd game until the very end when Bellarmine pulled away. As the Eagles seek to get back on track, look for Catto to be a large part of that.
The biggest takeaway from this slate of games is the level of uncertainty that it brought. Prior to the shutdown, this season started to have a special sort of feeling. Fast forward to now and the Eagles are losers of 2 straight games to a brand new D-I team. FGCU was outplayed and looked totally gassed by the end of the series. With 2 games against Lipscomb coming up, the thought of starting 0-4 in conference is alarming, but a possibility. Lipscomb is a preseason favorite in the ASUN and these will be some tough games. Fans must hope that FGCU can properly shake off these unfortunate losses and get back to winning basketball games.
As stated, Fgcu will be travelling to Lipscomb the play their 3rd and 4th Conference games versus the Bisons. With the format of conference play, there are already tournament implications on the line, this early in the season. After dropping both games to Bellarmine, the Eagles have to win some games that they “aren’t supposed to win” in order to get themselves back in the conversation for finishing in the top half of the league. That starts this coming weekend at Lipscomb. Stay tuned for our full breakdown of the Bisons!