PREVIEW: FGCU Opens ASUN Tournament Against Lipscomb

After a strange regular season surounded by promise, frustration, and confusion, FGCU Men’s Basketball finds itself in a familiar situation against Lipscomb. Last year, the Eagles were booted by the Bisons in the opening round of the tournament. Lipscomb was the clear 2nd best team in the conference and FGCU played them extremely tough. Ultimately, the Bisons won on the back of star player, Ahsan Asadullah. This season, these teams split their series with the Eagles winning the 1st game 79-69 and dropping the 2nd game 71-56.

Lipscomb enters the tournament as the 3rd seed after a going 9-6 in conference. FGCU has now faced 2 separate Covid-related shutdowns and the disappointment surrounding their 4-5 conference record is very indicative of that. Below, we will again break down the opponent’s impact players, project starting 5s, discuss matchups, and give our general outlook on the opening round clash.

Impact Players

Ahsan Asadullah

The biggest (literally) name on this team is Asadullah. In his freshman season, he made the ASUN All-Freshman team, averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds per game. Last season, as a sophomore, the 6’8″ / 260 pound Center tore up the conference on his way to 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Now in his junior season, his production has dipped a bit but come on strong lately. He recently had a stretch where he scored 19 or more points in 5 out of 6 games. Through 26 games (all starts), he is averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds. However, through 15 ASUN games, he is scoring 16 points per game along with 8 rebounds a night. In their series split with FGCU, Asadullah struggled to get going (by his standards), averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds. The big man is still the unquestioned leader of this team and should be the focus of the gameplan.

KJ Johnson

Johnson was an excellent freshman for the Bisons last season. He earned ASUN All-Freshman team honors while averaging 11 points per game. So far this season, the 6’2″ / 170 pound sophomore looks like he is taking another step. Through 20 games (19 starts) he is averaging 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Beyond that, he is shooting at a deadly clip of 48% from the floor as well as 41% from three. Johnson was held in relative “check” versus FGCU this season, averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in the series.

Romeao Ferguson

Ferguson joined Lipscomb this year for his graduate season after stints with Belmont Abbey and Lincoln Memorial. The 6’5″ / 195 pound guard has made an immediate impact for the Bisons. Through 25 games (all starts) he is averaging 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists while shooting 49% from the floor and 39% beyond the arc. Against the Eagles, Ferguson was red-hot, averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds over 2 games.

Greg Jones

Jones is an experienced player for the Bisons. Last year, he was a regular starter, averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds per game and shooting at an impressive 44% clip. This season, the 6’3″ / 195 pound junior has played in 23 games (19 starts) but his production has fallen off a bit as of late. Currently he is averaging 8 points and 2 rebounds on just 36% from the floor and 34% from three. Jones scored just 3 points in 2 games against the Eagles this year (54 total minutes).

Jake Wolfe

Wolfe is a 6’5″ / 195 pound sophomore guard for the Bisons. Last year, his season was cut short due to injury. This year, he looks to be finding a groove on this team. So far, he has played in 25 games, making 20 starts. Over those contests, he has posted averages of 7 points and 3 rebounds, while shooting 40% from the floor and 33% from beyond the arc. His numbers have been extremely up and down this season and that has persisted through conference season. Against FGCU, Wolfe averaged 6 points and 7 rebounds. Look for Lipscomb to try and get him in a rhythm early, as Wolfe can be deadly at the foul line. Minimizing his chances to score could be a priority.

Parker Hazen

Hazen is a quality forward for Lipscomb. The 6’8″ / 215 pound senior has been a part-time starter so far this year. He has seen action in 26 games (8 starts) and is currently averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds. Hazen has a clean and efficient shooting stroke for a big man too, making 47% of his shots from the floor and 36% from downtown. Hazen was on fire versus the Eagles earlier this season, averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds over the 2-game series.

Projected Starting 5

FGCULipscomb
Jalen Warren #5KJ Johnson #0
Caleb Catto #2Greg Jones #1
Franco Miller #3Jake Wolfe #10
Cyrus Largie #4Romeao Ferguson #3
Eli Abaev #14Ahsan Asadullah #23

Matchup Notes

  • Any time you play Lipscomb, the big matchup to watch is how the Eagles will go about trying to neutralize Ahsan Asadullah. FGCU played well against him last time these teams squared off but allowed other Bisons (Parker Hazen) to flourish. Will Justus Rainwater, Eli Abaev, and Dakota Rivers be enough to neutralize Asadullah without leaving the door open for another guy to produce in his place? The answer could very well be what decides the outcome of this game.
  • The matchup in the backcourt is crucial for both teams. It was against Lipscomb that star freshman point guard Luis Rolon last played for the Eagles, prior to his injury. It took time, but FGCU was able to transition back to having Jalen Warren at the point. Unfortunately, he was injured in the Eagles’ last game versus Kennesaw, though the extent of the injury is unknown and he is presumed available. Still, FGCU’s deep front court is now short handed, leaving guys like Dom London and Franco Miller Jr in a position where they must rise to the occasion. Cyrus Largie and Caleb Catto will likely be main focal points in the offense and other guys will need to step up to take the pressure off of them.

Outlook

In such a wildly erratic, unpredictable, and frustrating season for fans, coaches, and players, alike, it would mean a ton for this team to get their first ASUN tournament win in several seasons over a team that has knocked them out a couple of times over the last few years. Last time these teams squared off, FGCU was still getting over the lasting effects of their 1st Covid shutdown. They managed to win the first game of the series but looked tired and gassed by the waning minutes of the 2nd game. Here, the Eagles find themselves in a similar situation following their 2nd shutdown and a tough loss to Kennesaw. This time around, it’s just one game, rather than a series. The FGCU players will need to leave it all out on the court tonight as their season hangs in the balance.

Stay tuned for a recap following the game!

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