In the first road test of the season, FGCU travelled to Chicago to face off with a tough Loyola team that returned 8 of their top 9 scorers from a season ago. The Eagles wound up losing the contest 89-77. Below Russell breaks down his Eagles Things (discussion points/topics) from the game, heading into the much anticipated Dunk City Reunion Game versus USC. Russell’s Eagles Things will be a recurring weekly series that serves to lightly recap recent games and look ahead to the next ones.
Similar to their performance in the 1st game game versus FNU, the Eagles were pretty stale in the opening half. After a couple early threes from Tavian Dunn-Martin, the Ramblers’ went on a run, eventually building to a 20 point lead over FGCU. Heading into halftime, Loyola led 51-33. The 2nd half yielded much better results for the Eagles. Overall shooting percentage improved drastically and they actually won the half 44-38, coming within 4 points of the Ramblers near the end of the game. Unfortunately it was not enough to get the win, as the slow start was just too much to overcome. Slow starts will happen from time to time, but they create a need for 2nd half heroics that can’t always be counted on or expected. Against a team like USC that is so heavily favored, the Eagles will need to come out hot and take advantage where they can. Another slow start would be incredibly difficult to rebound from.
Areas For Improvement
Most of the areas for improvement can be traced back to the fact that it’s early in the season and guys are playing together for the first time. It’s expected that these things clean up over time. Still, aspects of the Loyola game that really hurt the team were turnovers, free throw percentage, overall shooting percentage, and an unbalanced scoring attack. FGCU committed 15 turnovers in the game. In general, high number or not, the impact of turnovers can be offset by the amount of assists a team gets. In this case. The Eagles tallied just 15 assists, making it a poor 1:1 ratio. Regarding free throw percentage, FGCU hit on just 11/20 of them. You can’t expect a team to hit every free throw but an improvement over 55% is needed going forward, especially against an opponent like USC, where every point is crucial. Lastly, the overall shooting percentage must stabilize, for the better. In the 1st half against Loyola, the Eagles shot just 10/28 (36%) from the floor. Digging a little deeper, they made just 3 shots from inside the arc the entire half (3/14 on 2-point field goals). This discrepancy leads to the final area for improvement. Out of the 77 points that FGCU scored, just 14 of them were in the paint. If Tavian Dunn-Martin is shooting like he was, by all means, ride that lightning. But going forward, a much more balanced offensive attack would do the team well. As stated, the bigs are still finding their footing in this young season. Whether it’s driving to the basket, post play, or whatever else, the team will need to find reliable paint scoring at some point.
Newcomers Show Out
Loyola was a homecoming for FGCU forward/wing Austin Richie. He responded to the short trip home with a clean, efficient game. Richie finished with just 8 points but shot 2/3 from beyond the arc, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 1 assist, and blocked 1 shot. Another newcomer, Matt Halvorsen, showed off his confident, quick release and 3-point scoring ability, finishing the game with 14 points. He also shot about 38% from deep and went 5/5 on free throws. Lastly, and most impressively, Tavian Dunn-Martin scored 34 points in his Eagles debut and was the main catalyst for FGCU’s 2nd half rally. He shot a ridiculous 64% (70% in the 2nd half) from beyond the arc. Tavian also added 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. Going forward, Coach Fly has to be encouraged by these guys and may look to lean on their performances while other guys continue to shake off the off-season rust.
Watching the 1st half, there were moments that suggested a blowout was in store. Whatever the message was at halftime, it worked (probably something like “get Tavian the Ball. That dude can’t miss!”). As stated, the 20 point hole they were in ended up being too large to overcome. While there are no moral victories being celebrated, the inexperienced, youthful teams in the recent past might not have been able to bounce back in the same circumstances. The resolve shown by this team was encouraging, despite the loss. Heading into the USC game, more of that fight and determination could come in handy. FGCU’s experience will have to be leaned on against the Trojans.
FGCU welcomes USC to Alico Arena on Tuesday, November 16th. This is not just the biggest opponent the Eagles will face this season, but probably the biggest opponent to step foot in Alico Arena. The Trojans, as you may know, are coached by Andy Enfield. Enfield coached FGCU for 2 seasons, culminating in the historic Sweet 16 run of 2012-13 and launching the university into national relevance. Of course, FGCU head coach Michael Fly was an assistant on Enfield’s staff. So here we are 9 years later, celebrating the Dunk City Reunion game. The Eagles must play a smart basketball game and use their experience to their advantage to make this a ball game.
Stay tuned for our full game preview to be released the morning of the game on 11/16. As always, follow Screecher Report on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and listen to the podcast on all major streaming platforms as well as here at ScreecherReport.com