After an exciting opening round win over UNA, FGCU (now 21-10) will face Bellarmine on the road, in the ASUN Quarterfinal round. FGCU is 0-3 against the Knights all-time, with each game being played at Alico Arena. Earlier this season, it looked like the Eagles finally had Bellarmine where they wanted them. Unfortunately, FGCU’s offense stalled and the Knights heated up, leading to a 74-63 loss. This time around it’s do-or-die for both teams. Below we will break down the matchup.
Joining the ASUN just last season, it did not take long for people to see that Bellarmine is NOT your typical D2→D1 transitioning team. The Knights were immediately (more than) competitive against other D1 teams and proved to be a top contender in the ASUN. This year has been no different. Through the regular season, they racked up a 17-13 record and an 11-5 record in conference. The 6-8 non-con record might not seem like much at first, but among those losses are games against Purdue, UCLA, and Gonzaga, among other very strong competitors.
The Knights are mainly a 2-headed monster with Dylan Penn and CJ Flemming doing most of their damage. As a 6’3″ / 190 lb senior guard, Penn has averaged 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Against FGCU, he poured in 20 points along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Flemming has averaged 15 points and 3 rebounds per game, while shooting 38% from 3. The 6’1″ / 180 lb graduate guard lit up FGCU for 23 points earlier this season, hitting 5 threes in the process. Despite being top-heavy, Bellarmine has 6 players averaging 7+ points per game. Among those players is 6’3″ / 190 lb rSr guard, Justin Betz, who averages 7 points and 7 rebounds per game. One interesting thing to note is that none of those 7 players are over 6’8″. The Knights continue to be coached by Scott Davenport who is in his 17th season there.
FGCU – Outlook
Sitting at 0-3 all-time against Bellarmine leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans, coaches, and players alike. The Knights have been able to gain the upper hand by playing a totally contrasting brand of basketball to FGCU’s fast-paced play. Last time these teams squared off, the Eagles were in the midst of their mid-season lull. This time around, they’re one of the hottest teams out there. Leading the team all year has been the duo of Tavian Dunn-Martin (TDM) and Kevin Samuel. TDM scored 26 points versus UNA in the opening round of the ASUN tournament, including several clutch 3s at crucial moments in the game. On the season, he is averaging about 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists. Samuel added yet another double-double to his resume against UNA, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. For the year, he is averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Against UNA, the Eagles had a lot of guys step up and contribute in big ways. Zach Anderson and Andre Weir impressed with efficiency on offense and solid defense. Dakota Rivers provided a ton of energy on the defensive end of things. Cyrus Largie, Caleb Catto, and Austin Richie also did well in their roles, bringing energy, leadership, and clutch/timely shot-making. FGCU will need the same type of effort from those guys in this game. Of course they’ll need a guy like TDM to go off, but the balanced attack behind him will need to be there for the Eagles to escape Kentucky with a win.
The daunting 0-3 record versus Bellarmine can seem intimidating. The contrasting styles also play a hand in this as the Knights pass and fundamental you to death. FGCU definitely has a hill to climb in order to win this game, but there are several reasons to believe that they can make said climb. For one, it’s just incredibly difficult/rare for a team to win 4 straight over an opponent (not the most analytical point, but valid). Another factor is FGCU’s size advantage. However, this was something they failed to take much advantage of last time. Additionally, the Eagles did a pretty fair job of limiting the Knights’ offense last time they played. The problem for FGCU was their FG% being a bit too low. More recently, the Eagles have been very efficient offensively in the low post. Lastly, Bellarmine is coming off of a loss to EKU in their last game of the regular season. That was 5 days ago and the Knights have not played since (1st round bye). FGCU is fresh off of a W and can hopefully use that to catch Bellarmine off guard a bit and get an early lead in this game. The rest will be up to whether the guys can play up to their collective potential and turn this upset opportunity into a reality.
Stay Tuned – WOB Watch Party!
Head down to World of Beer (Gulf Coast Town Center) tonight for another watch party. Enjoy deals associated with their Thursday College Nights and come watch the game with us! Tip is at 7PM!
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