After getting back in the win column just a couple days ago, FGCU (13-8, 3-4) welcomes Bellarmine to Alico Arena for another double-header (Women’s Basketball plays at 4PM). Last season, the Eagles’ series against Bellarmine did not go as planned. In fact, it was maybe the worst stretch for them, in a season full of turmoil and frustration. The Eagles were swept by the Knights, following a Covid-related program shut-down. Despite joining the ASUN just last year, Bellarmine has made the DII → DI transition look easy. Tonight, FGCU will look to get their first win over this well-coached squad. Below, we will break down the matchup.
The Knights enter the contest with a 12-9 overall record and an impressive 6-1 record in conference. They played an extremely tough non-conference season, losing to teams like Gonzaga, UCLA, Purdue, Murray State, Loyola Marymount, and West Virginia. They managed wins against Central Michigan and Miami (Ohio). In ASUN play, they won their first five games, mostly in nail-biting fashion. Specifically they beat EKU by 5 points and beat JU by just 3 points, in OT. Their 1st loss came at the hands of Jacksonville State (65-60). Personnel wise, this group of Knights look pretty similar to the ones that came to Alico last year. Currently they are made up of 5 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 6 juniors, and 4 seniors/grads. Production-wise, they are very guard-heavy. Leading the pack is 6’3″ guard, Dylan Penn. Through 21 games/starts, the junior is averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. C.J. Flemming was a nightmare for the Eagles to play against last year. The 6’0″ graduate guard is averaging 13 points and 3 rebounds, while shooting 39% from deep. There are a few other guys to keep in mind but, among them, junior Alec Pfriem is a constant threat. The 6’5″ guard averages 8 points but shoots it from 3 at a 48% clip. The Knights continue to be coached by long-time leader Scott Davenport, who is in his 17th season.
The Eagles had a lot of players step up in their recent win over Eastern Kentucky. It’s a promising sign as FGCU has seemingly relied too heavily on their top guys, despite having depth. Tavian Dunn-Martin (TDM) is still the top scoring threat for the Eagles, averaging about 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Despite not scoring much against EKU, TDM was a team player, dishing out 4 assists and hitting shots when the team needed him to. This opened up the door for Kevin Samuel, Austin Richie, and Cyrus Largie to have big games. Samuel is 2nd on the team in scoring with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Largie is 3rd with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and nearly 2 steals per game.
Since the loss to Canisius at the end of the non-conference season, the Eagles have struggled to pull themselves completely out of this slump. The win over EKU was a step towards where this team wants to be. But a real step in the right direction will take place if they’re able to pull out a win over this strong Bellarmine team. FGCU has played good teams well/close this year but they have not come out on top enough in those situations. If this team is going to make a case for themselves in the ASUN tournament, beating the Knights will be a good indication that they can do that. As stated, Bellarmine gets most of their production out of their guards. Kevin Samuel could have another big day. On the other hand, if they choose to double-team him, that could leave a lot of perimeter shots open. The Eagles will have their hands full on the defensive end as Bellarmine can score in a variety of ways.
You can catch the game at Alico Arena at 7PM tonight or on ESPN+.