The FGCU Men’s team (18-10, 8-6) seemed to catch fire late in this conference season. However, their 5 game win streak was halted by a scorching hot UNF squad that has knocked off several conference leaders in recent weeks. To make matters worse, the injury bug has really started to make its appearance for the Eagles. It started with Franco Miller, then Zach Anderson and Cyrus Largie. Most recently, top performer Kevin Samuel was seen holding his knee in pain late in the game against UNF. Regardless of how this will ultimately factor into things, FGCU has work to do. Next up is a rematch with conference powerhouse, Liberty. Below, we will break down the matchup.
The Flames have owned the conference since joining just a few years ago. This season is no different as they currently hold an overall record of 20-9 and an ASUN record of 11-3. Last time these teams met, Liberty managed to escape Alico Arena with a 78-75 win. In that game, star player Darius McGhee dropped a record-breaking 48 points. For the season, the 5’9″ senior guard is averaging nearly 24 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. Forward Kyle Rhode leads the team in rebounding (4.6) and assists (4.3) while averaging nearly 9 points per game. Junior forward Shiloh Robinson was another big contributor for Liberty last time these teams squared off. Robinson was an efficient scorer, going 7-7 from the floor and tallying 16 points in the game. On the season, he is averaging about 10 points and 4 rebounds per game. Lastly, Keegan McDowell is averaging 10 points and nearly 4 rebounds per game. The Flames continue to be coached by Ritchie McKay, who is in his 7th season. McKay has been an excellent leader over that span, with Liberty dominating the conference during his tenure.
As the Eagles are set for their final away game of the regular season, they face their biggest task. Leading this battle for FGCU is Tavian Dunn-Martin (TDM), whose rare offensive struggles played a part in the recent loss to UNF. It should be added that in a game where he “struggled”, he still managed 10 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds. TDM doesn’t “struggle” in the same way most others do. Last time against Liberty, he had a rough go of it, scoring 11 points and hitting just 2 shots from the floor. On the season, TDM continues to make his case for ASUN POY, averaging about 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists. His production on the opposite side of McGhee will play a big part in the outcome of this award race, as well as this game. Kevin Samuel appeared shaken up late in the UNF game, though no injury-related news has come out. Samuel scored just 8 points against Liberty when they played last, but grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds. Kevin has dominated ASUN play for the most part. Over his last 9 games, he has achieved 6 double-doubles. On the season, he is averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. Cyrus Largie was banged up recently as well but rounds out the top scorers with about 11 points and 5 rebounds per game. The Eagles’ depth and experience has been a huge advantage this season. Caleb Catto, Austin Richie, Matt Halvorsen, Dakota Rivers, and others have all provided big boosts for the team. Liberty is likely going to try to contain TDM again so finding offense somewhere else will be essential.
As it has been said many times before, the college basketball season is split up into 3 parts. There’s the non-conference portion, followed by conference play, and finally, the conference tournament/post-season. Right now, the Eagles are nearing the end of conference play with just 2 such games remaining. Tonight’s road matchup against Liberty is maybe the most important game of the season so far. Sure they’ve already secured a spot in the ASUN tournament, but seeding and momentum are everything this time of year. For most of the season, FGCU has beaten the teams they are supposed to beat and played tough against those that were supposed to beat them. Of course there are exceptions. The win over Rhode Island was an early-season highlight. The loss to Canisius was a mid-season downer. Conference play opened in a much shakier fashion, dropping several games to opponents they should have beaten. Then came the recent 5 game win-streak, followed by a disappointing loss to a red-hot UNF team. Is UNF hitting their stride? Or did the Eagles drop one that they should have won? Both can be true. In regard to the last game against Liberty, did Darius McGhee have a special night that would have otherwise ended up as a W for FGCU? Or were the Eagles simply outmatched? Bottom line is that a win on the road over Liberty would do wonders for the confidence surrounding this team heading into the ASUN tournament. It would show that the Eagles don’t just play well against great teams, but they can also beat them.
Follow Screecher Report on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, etc. Listen to the S/R podcast on major music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple, Google, YouTube, etc, or here at ScreecherReport.com/podcast. Stay tuned for coverage of FGCU basketball, including a regular season wrap-up/ASUN tournament preview podcast, following the final game against Jacksonville on 2/26.