After a disappointing loss to Jacksonville, FGCU (11-5 / 1-1) looks to get back on track versus Kennesaw State (5-8 / 0-0). Below we will break down the matchup, ahead of tonight’s 4:30 PM tip.
The Owls are set for their first taste of 2022 ASUN action, after a Covid-related pause shut things down in their program. Looking at their 5-8 non-con record requires some context. On one hand they have beaten just 1 D1 team (Charleston Southern). On the other hand, they have played a very tough schedule (Iowa State, Creighton, Belmont, Wake Forrest, Mercer, Wofford, Samford, and Nebraska). An interesting note is that the Owls fell to Mercer 71-73, while the Eagles beat them 67-55. Regarding their roster, this KSU team has a ton of experience. Currently, there are no freshmen on the roster, 5 sophomores, 4 juniors, and 4 seniors. On the court, they have been led by Chris Youngblood. The 6’4″ / 218 lb sophomore guard has followed up a strong rookie season by averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds so far this year. Terrell Burden has also been a solid player for the Owls. The 5’10” junior guard has averaged 12 points, 3 rebounds and almost 5 assists per game. Spencer Rodgers was a big-time player for the Owls last season. This year, his numbers have dipped but it has not stopped him from contributing in big ways. The 6’4″ senior guard has averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Lastly, the Owls’ resident big-man is Desmond Robinson. The 6’8″ / 264 lb junior transferred from Murray State this summer to join Kennesaw and has averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. On the sidelines, the Owls are coached by 3rd year man, Amir Abdur-Rahim. He joined the program in April 2019, much to the praise of those around the situation. With that praise came expectations. After a 1-28 first season full of rebuilding, development, and injury, last year was just slightly better at 5-19. This year. They have already equaled their win total from last year and played competitively against some solid competition. This is an improved KSU team but it that is yet to show in their record.
If you read our last game preview ahead of the Jacksonville game, you may have picked up on the idea that it felt like a trap game waiting to happen. Unfortunately, it was exactly that. FGCU could not distance themselves from Jacksonville, leaving the door open for a late-game 3 to send the Dolphins off with a W. At 11-5 (1-1) the Eagles still sit in an excellent position. It is no secret that Tavian Dunn-Martin has been huge for the team, now averaging 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists per game, on 38% shooting from beyond the arc (42% from the field). Kevin Samuel has also been a pillar for the team and a double-double machine, averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Cyrus Largie is also a major contributor, adding 12 points and 5 rebounds per game.
The best thing that could come out of a trap game loss like the one to Jacksonville, is if it serves as motivation for the team going forward to take every opponent just as seriously as the next. The team that played USC tough for 75% of the game and beat Rhode Island is capable of running the ASUN this year. But the team that has struggled to put away lower ranked teams could end up putting themselves in a tough spot down the line. Up until recently, FGCU has pulled out wins against teams, even if they didn’t play their best ball. But over the last 3 games, the Eagles are 1-2 with losses coming against teams they should have beaten. Now, against a better-than-they-seem-on-paper team like Kennesaw, I am hopeful and expect to see the FGCU squad come out firing on all cylinders, reminding fans, critics, and themselves how dominant they can be. Look for Cyrus Largie to have a big game tonight. That man is due for one.
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