FGCU Men’s Hoops Game Preview: Jacksonville State – 1/22/22

After losing 3 straight and 4 of their last 5, FGCU (12-7, 2-3) finally got back in the win column with an OT victory over Stetson. Getting that 12th win has not been easy. The Eagles looked to be back on track when they beat UNF at home to open ASUN play. Just 3 days later, they lost to JU on a last second shot. The lull continued with a 20+ point loss to typical punching bag, Kennesaw State, on the road. Next up was a big-time matchup against conference powerhouse, Liberty. This game was excellent and the Eagles held a solid lead for much of the game. Liberty’s Darius McGhee (a shoe-in for ASUN POY) had other plans. At the end of the night, McGhee scored a career high in points (48) and that was simply too much to overcome in a game where FGCU’s perimeter shot wasn’t falling until late in the contest. They ended up losing to the Flames 75-78. Most recently, in the win over Stetson, it looked like FGCU might be back in their groove, leading 47-22 at halftime. In the 2nd half, however, the Eagles struggled to hit shots, their defense was being carved up, and Stetson had their way on the glass and in the Pick & Roll game. All of this led to an overtime that probably never should have happened. At the end of the day, the Eagles came out on top (93-91) with some clutch shooting and a couple of defensive stops down the stretch. Next up for FGCU is a road bout with conference newcomer, Jacksonville State. These teams have no history with each other as this will be the first time they face off. Below, we break down the matchup.

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State is a very strong addition the the ASUN this year. So far, they are 11-6 on the season. They played a similarly competitive non-con schedule to FGCU. The Gamecocks have losses to Wichita State, Troy, Valraraiso, VCU, and Alabama, and South Alabama. Their D-I wins have come over Alabama A&M, Drexel, Elon, FIU, and Little Rock, prior to ASUN play. At this point JSU is 4-0 in conference, with wins over North Alabama, Lipscomb, Eastern Kentucky, and Central Arkansas (all teams FGCU is yet to play). Additionally, the Gamecocks are on a 6-game win streak. This year’s team is made up of 6 freshmen, 2 sophomores, 4 juniors, and 4 seniors. Many of these freshmen are utilizing a redshirt season, so this team is dominated by upperclassmen.

On the court, they have had 6 main contributors, led by 6’3″ / 200 lb senior guard, Darian Adams. In 16 games (all starts), this veteran player has averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. The other 6’3″ senior guard that is making noise for them, is Jalen Gibbs. Through 17 games (all starts), he is averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds, while shooting nearly 47% from beyond the arc. Damaree King has been a huge spark off the bench for the Gamecocks. The 6’0″ / 180 lb junior guard is currently averaging 12 points per game, while shooting a deadly 51% from deep. The big man for JSU, Brandon Huffman, stands at 6’10” / 255. Through 17 games (all starts), the senior has averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. At the other forward spot is the 6’7″ / 210 lb, Kayne Henry. The senior has started all 17 games, averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds in the process. Lastly, Jalen Finch (former FSW JUCO guy) rounds out the typical starters for JSU. The 6’1″ / 165 lb junior guard averages 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

Coaching the Gamecocks is veteran, Ray Harper. Coach Harper joined their program in 2016 and is in his 6th year at the helm. Since taking over, JSU has been a consistently strong team in their conference.

FGCU

As the Eagles work their way through this rough mid-season rut that they have put themselves in, next up is a road contest versus the #1 team in the conference. This season, FGCU has had no problem playing in high stakes games and being very competitive against good teams. This, in large part, is due to the experience they have in top guys like Tavian Dunn-Martin (TDM), Kevin Samuel, Caleb Catto, and others. TDM continues to lead the team with 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. In doing so, his performance often plays a big part in the outcome of games, particularly his efficiency from beyond the arc. In wins, TDM has shot 40% from deep. In losses, his 3PT% dips to 30%. Samuel’s play has been a pillar for FGCU as well. Currently, he is averaging about 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. In the win over Stetson, he broke FGCU’s single-season blocks records (52) with 11+ games to go. Usual contributors like Catto and Largie have seen their numbers level off a bit recently but contribute in other ways, even when the points are distributed elsewhere. In the narrow loss to Liberty, Catto scored a season high, 23 points.

Outlook

This preview opens with FGCU’s recent struggles. This is a necessary inclusion to really grasp where the Eagles are at this point in the season. There are many things that can simultaneously be true about this year’s squad. Are they a very good/talented team? Yes. Have there been times/games where the team wasn’t playing to its potential? Yes. Is this a team with a lot of new faces, still building chemistry on the fly? Yes. Do they play well/competitive against strong competition? Yes. Have they struggled, at times, to put away weaker opponents? Also yes. All of this can be true at the same time. Bottom line, this team is 12-7 with hopes and goals of hitting their stride sooner than later. At this point in time, it’s valid to be impressed with the season as a whole and also valid to be concerned about the recent struggles. Being encouraged by the successes, while ignoring the failures is naive. Conversely, reveling in the negatives, without acknowledging any of the positive is equally ridiculous. It is unknown, at this juncture, whether we’re watching the beginnings of a downward spiral, or the rising action to an eventual climax in the story of a long college basketball season. Perceptions of the team are wide-spread among fans. Only time will tell how the 2021-22 chapter of FGCU Men’s Hoops will unfold. I believe there is much more reason to be optimistic about how the rest of the season will go. A strong win over this talented Jacksonville State team could serve as the perfect opportunity for FGCU to recapture momentum and start getting hot at the right time.

🚨Announcent🚨 – Stay Tuned!

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement regarding a couple of Screecher Report hosted, FGCU Men’s Hoops watch parties! These will take place at a popular venue near campus and we will provide dates/times/location after all details are hammered out! To stay up-to-date on this and other news related to FGCU Basketball, follow Screecher Report on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube. Listen wherever you get your podcasts!

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