PREVIEW: FGCU Faces UNA in the ASUN Semi-Final Round – 3/5/21

For the 3rd time this season, FGCU will be facing North Alabama (UNA). The previous 2 times resulted in impressive wins for the Eagles. This time, there is much more on the line, as these teams are meeting in the ASUN Conference semifinals for a chance to compete for the championship. Below, we will break down UNA, revisit their impact players, give starting 5 projections, discuss matchups, and give our general outlook heading into the game.

North Alabama

The Lions have always been a strong, well-coached team but that hasn’t necessarily manifested in the win/loss collumn. This year started out differently though. When these teams faced off the first time, UNA was 10-4 overall and 6-2 in conference. FGCU ended up sweeping the series and UNA has gone 2-6 since then. Still, this is a balanced roster with 3 seniors, 4 juniors, and a lot of young talent. Below are UNA’s impact players.

Impact Players

Mervin James

James is an impressive sophomore for the Lions. The 6’7″ / 215 pound forward has played in 21 games this season, starting 19 of them. He is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. When pressured, James is prone to coughing up the ball though, as he averages about 3 turnovers per game as well. He played fairly well versus FGCU this season, averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds over those 2 games

Jamari Blackmon

Early in his career, it looked like Blackmon would be the star of this Lions team for a long time. As a freshman, he averaged nearly 15 points per game. As a sophomore, that number decreased to 12. Now as a junior, the 6’1″ / 205 guard is averaging 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists over 22 games. Additionally, his shooting percentages have dropped to 36% from the floor and 31% from deep. Blackmon struggled mightily against FGCU this year, averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds on a total of 2/16 shooting (0/10 from three) over the course of the 2-game series. Despite his struggles, Blackmon is a constant threat, scoring 15 or more points 6 times this year.

Payton Youngblood

Aside from being on the All-Name team, Youngblood brings experience and skill to the table for UNA. The 6’5″ / 200 pound redshirt senior has started all 22 games for the Lions this year. In doing so, he is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds while shooting a clean 40% from the floor and 38% from deep. Against the Eagles this year, Youngblood averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds per game.

C.J. Brim

Brim plays the role of point guard for the Lions. The 5’9″ / 170 pound senior has played in 15 games this year, making 12 starts. He is currently averaging 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, while shooting 41% (30% from three). Brim struggled to score against the Eagles this season, averaging just 5 points over 2 games. He managed to contribute in other ways though as he averaged 5 rebounds and 4 assists in that same span.

Emanuel Littles

Littles is a beast for the Lions down low and a true double-double machine. The 6’7″ / 215 pound junior has played and started 21 games this season, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game on 53% shooting. Similar to his teammate in the frontcourt (James), Littles averages 3 turnovers per game. Against FGCU this season, he averaged 9 points and 10 rebounds.

Starting 5 Projections

FGCUUNA
Luis Rolon #1C.J. Brim #11
Jalen Warren #5Jamari Blackmon #3
Caleb Catto #2Payton Youngblood #14
Cyrus Largie #4Mervin James #5
Eli Abaev #14Emanuel Littles #21

Matchup Notes

  • As of right now, most of UNA’s consistent production comes form the frontcourt with quality players like Mervin James and Emanuel Littles. Both of those players played well when these teams met in the regular season, despite FGCU winning both games. On the other side, perhaps Eli Abaev’s best couple of games as an Eagle came in that same series. He averaged about 12 points and 9 rebounds in those games and looked very comfortable overall.
  • Despite the quality bigs that UNA possesses, the Eagles found success versus them, employing their small lineup with Cyrus Largie playing the “4”. We’ll see if the same can be said for this game.
  • Another wrinkle in this matchup is the addition of star freshman, Luis Rolon for FGCU. When these teams met in the regular season, Rolon was unavailable due to injury. As we all saw last night versus Lipscomb, the skilled, savvy point guard can be quite a difference maker for the Eagles.

Outlook

Coming off of an impressive victory in the opening round, the Eagles reminded everyone of how good they can be with some consistency. Now, FGCU has a chance to prove to people that they are more than what we’ve seen so far this season. Coach Fly has been adamant all year that this team is much more gifted and talented than what we have been able to see this season due to Covid-related circumstances. The win last night takes the pressure off, but a win against UNA would serve to establish legitimacy and reinvigorate a fan-base that is eager to see this team succeed.

Stay tuned for recap following the game!

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