PREVIEW: FGCU Hosts Stetson a Week Ahead of Schedule (1/29 – 1/30/21)

In a reshuffling of games, FGCU will play their back-to-back home bouts with Stetson a week early. In theory, this was done to potentially accommodate teams (like FGCU) that need to make up missed games. The Eagles (6-5, 1-3) are coming off of a series split with Lipscomb that saw them handily win the first game, and fall off a cliff at the end of the second game. FGCU had a similar collapse at the end of their series with Bellarmine. Below with will break down Stetson, take a look at their impact players, discuss matchup notes, project starting lineups, give our general outlook on the games, and make our predictions.

Stetson Hatters

The Hatters entered this season with high hopes. Last season they surprised a lot of people with the talent and success that they had with such young players. So far, this year has been somewhat disappointing for them. Entering this weekend, they sit at 4-8 overall and 2-4 in conference, with wins over Liberty and UNA. After early season struggles, Stetson has found some footing and is looking to use these games as a jumping off point for the rest of the season. The Hatters are led by 2nd year head coach, Donnie Jones. Jones turned Stetson into an immediate contender in his first year and is trying to spark some of that same fire that they finished with last season. Below we will break down some of Stetson’s impact players.

Impact Players

Chase Johnston

Johnston is an impressive redshirt freshman for the Hatters. Through 12 games (11 starts), he is averaging about 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Throughout the season, the 6’2″ guard has been pretty consistent with his production. He has scored 9 or more points in 10 out of the 12 games he has played. In doing so, he is shooting 43% from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc.

Rob Perry

Perry played extremely well against the FGCU last year, averaging about 26 points per game against the Eagles. This year, the 6’4″ / 210 pound sophomore has seen a dip in production and efficiency. He ended last season averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the floor and 43% from deep. So far this year, Perry is averaging 13 points and 4 rebounds a game and shooting 33% from the floor and 32% from downtown. The drop in production can be partially attributed to a guy like Johnston, who has provided extra offense for the Hatters. This idea can be backed up by the fact that Perry is averaging 1 more assist per game than last season. Despite a dip in production, Perry can still make teams pay. He has scored over 20 points in three games so far this season and getting him going against FGCU will likely be a big priority for them.

Christiaan Jones

Jones is the lone senior on this team and their biggest leader, as he has been with the program every year of his athletic career. He has picked up exactly where he left off the past few season. Currently, the 6’5″ / 195 pound guard is averaging 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists through 12 games (10 starts). Jones has always been consistent for the Hatters but they are hoping that he has found a groove here as the conference season gets hot and comes to a close. He has scored at least 14 points in 6 out of his last 8 games played.

Mahamadou Diawara

Like Rob Perry, Diawara is another up and coming player for the Hatters who burst into the scene last year as a freshman. This year, the 6’10” / 250 pound sophomore forward has played and started 10 games for Stetson, averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds. This is a decrease from his freshman season, where he tallied almost 13 points per game. For Diawara, this can be attributed to a decrease in minutes as it appears he has battled some nagging injuries or ailments.

Josh Smith

Another standout freshman for this young team, is Josh Smith. At 6’8″ / 215 pounds, he adds size to pair with Diawara in the front court. Smith has seen minutes in all 12 games so far and has made 3 starts. In about 16 minutes per game, he is averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds while shooting 48% from the floor and 40 % from 3.

Potential Starters

FGCUStetson
Jalen Warren #5Rob Perry #2
Caleb Catto #2Chase Johnston #11
Cyrus Largie #4Christiaan Jones #0
Dakota Rivers #0Joel Kabimba #35
Eli Abaev# 14Mahamadou Diawara #15

Matchup Notes

  • The matchup down low is always intriguing to us. Mahamadou Diawara possesses size that FGCU simply doesn’t have. Freshman Josh Smith and sophomore Joel Kabimba add to this intrigue as well. For FGCU Eli Abaev has proved that he can still provide a boost on the defensive end and rebounding the ball, beyond what his 210 pound frame would suggest. Dakota Rivers can shot block with the best of them. And Justus Rainwater typically ends up playing more minutes when guys like Diawara (and Lipscomb’s Asadullah) are present on the other team. Freshman Zach Anderson has been a solid contributor for the Eagles thus far as well.
  • FGCU played their most recent 2 games (versus Lipscomb) without the duties of freshman standout, Luis Rolon at the point. It is unclear if and when he could be available again. The Eagles still possess talent and experience with Jalen Warren, Caleb Catto, Cyrus Largie, Franco Miller, and Dom London, not to mention other valuable rotation pieces. Stetson’s Rob Perry totally lit up the Eagles last season though. It will be interesting to see what FGCU can and will do to try and stop him and senior, Christiaan Jones. the addition of redshirt freshman standout, Chase johnston, will also be something for the Eagles to guard against.

Outlook

At this point in the conference season, every game is increasingly important. After 2 spirit-crushing losses to Bellarmine, the Eagles won convincingly against Lipscomb in the first game, then fell apart in the final 10 minutes of the 2nd game. With a 1-3 conference record, FGCU is looking for that right opponent to string a couple of victories together against. At 2-4 in conference, Stetson is in the same boat though.

Predictions

Russell Kelly

“After 2 straight series where the Eagles just collapsed in the final minutes, I think they find a way to play 2 mostly solid games and, in the process, come out with 2 much-needed victories.”

72-66 – FGCU

80-72 – FGCU

Elliott Kresse

“Surprise games for FGCU! A seemingly short notice schedule could play a part in causing a split series. I honestly may just say the whole rest of the ASUN series are splits based on how up and down things have been this year. Everyone advances to the ASUN final and just fist fights for the title. A true battle royale.. but in seriousness, I say the Eagles win the first game and drop the second one again”

80-70 – FGCU

82-68 – Stetson

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