GAME PREVIEW: FGCU Set To Open A-Sun Play At UNF
AT A GLANCE
FGCU will look to put an end to its first losing streak of the season on Thursday night when it heads north to Jacksonville to open up Atlantic Sun Conference action against North Florida. The contest is one of three games on the opening night of league play, while FGCU and UNF are two of five teams that will play a pair of A-Sun games over the weekend. The Eagles have opened A-Sun play on the road in each of their three seasons in the league, posting a 2-1 record. Oddly enough, FGCU's first-ever game as a member of the A-Sun on Jan. 3, 2008 came at UNF and resulted in a 70-67 win. The game begins a string of four consecutive road contests for the Eagles, as they start the season with seven of their first nine away from the friendly confines of Alico Arena.
Thursday night will mark the 10th meeting between the two teams - FGCU's most against any opponent. The Eagles own a 6-3 edge in the all-time series, while the teams have split six meeting as members of the A-Sun. FGCU won the first six games in the series, while the Ospreys have won the last three meetings by a combined 19 points. Seven of the nine meetings have been decided by 10 points or less, while two have gone to overtime, including last year's meeting at UNF Arena. FGCU is 2-3 all-time against the Ospreys at UNF Arena.
SCOUTING THE OSPREYS
After beginning the season with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, UNF recently put together back-to-back wins in Mexico to come home with the Cancun Challenge title. The Ospreys opened the year at Florida State (Nov. 12) and then less than 24 hours later played at No. 5 Pittsburgh (Nov. 13). UNF has also taken on No. 15 Missouri before defeating Prairie View A&M and Morgan State. Thursday's game will be the long-awaited home opener for UNF, who was picked one slot ahead of FGCU in the A-Sun Preseason Poll by the media. Like the Eagles, UNF sports a reigning A-Sun All-Freshmen team honoree in the post in Andres Diaz. Diaz leads the team in both scoring (11.8) and rebound (5.3), while ranking just behind ANTHONY BANKS in the league's offensive rebound leaders with 14. Reigning A-Sun Player of the Week Jerron Granberry posted averages of 14 points and six rebounds en route to winning Tournament MVP at the Cancun Challenge. Sophomore guard Parker Smith has come off to bench to score double figures in four of six games and averages 11.5 points per contest.
HEAD COACHING MATCHUP
FGCU HEAD COACH
@ FGCU: 145-103 (9th Season)
Overall: 180-152 (12th Season)
Atlantic Sun: 18-38 (4th Season)
Vs. UNF: 6-3
NORTH FLORIDA HEAD COACH
@ UNF: 16-21 (2nd Season)
Overall: 42-98 (6th Season)
Atlantic Sun: 8-12 (2nd Season)
Vs. FGCU: 2-0
The inside-out combination of redshirt sophomore forward ANTHONY BANKS and senior guard REED BAKER give FGCU one of the most prolific scoring duos in the A-Sun. Both have finished in double figures in four of five games and have led the Eagles in scoring 28 of the last 34 contests, including 10 straight, dating back to last season. For their careers, both have reached double figures in the same game 16 times and currently stack up as the second-best scoring tandem in the A-Sun.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
Not equipped with a lot of size in the paint, FGCU makes up for it by staying active on the offensive glass. Led by preseason All-Conference choice ANTHONY BANKS, the Eagles rank fourth in the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (14.4). FGCU has grabbed double figure offensive boards in 32 of its last 35 games, including all five this season, dating back to the final contest of the 2008-09. A year removed from grabbing 100 offensive caroms, Banks already has 19 this season to lead the A-Sun and is fresh-off a nine-rebound performance on the offensive glass against ACC foe Miami.
The A-Sun's second leading scorer, senior REED BAKER has reached the 20-point plateau a league-high three times already this season. Baker was joined by junior TIM SNYDER in the 20-point club at Grambling, while ANTHONY BANKS scored 21 points to Baker's 21 against Miami. The two games marked the fourth and fifth time, respectively, that a pair of players has gone for at least 20 points in the same game since FGCU joined Division I. Baker has been a part of four of the five occasions. The Naples, Fla. product has 12 career 20-point games.
A HELPING HAND
Junior MARLON RIVERA has taken over the reins of the point guard position with his strong play on both ends of the court. Rivera is one of two players in the A-Sun averaging five assists and five rebounds per game joining Lipscomb's Josh Slater. The FGCU floor general has dished out nine assists in each of FGCU's two home games and ranks third in the league in assists per contest (5.0). Rivera's 5.2 rebounds per game rank 20th in the A-Sun to go along with his 7.2 points.
YOU CAN BANKS ON IT
The versatility of ANTHONY BANKS was on full display in 2009-10 and the redshirt sophomore is back at it again this season. Banks in second on the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game while leading in field goal percentage (.551), rebounding (6.2) and offensive rebounds (19). Banks has led the team in scoring twice, rebounding three times and both in the same game on two occasions. He's reached double figures in four games while posting a league-best two double-doubles.
Over the last five games, FGCU has taken 14 charges led by five from sophomore ANTHONY BANKS. Freshman CHASE FIELER and junior TIM SNYDER have also gotten into the act with three each.
Senior REED BAKER has not only scored in double figures in all five games this season, he's reached the double-digit plateau in five halves. Baker enters Thursday's showdown at UNF with double figure points in five of the last eight halves, including four straight in the final frame where he is averaging a healthy 11.6 points over the final 20 minutes.
With a career scoring average of 13.0 points per game at FGCU, senior REED BAKER has several big games in the month of December. Baker sports a scoring averaging of 14.5 points over 15 in the final month of the year. Out of his 12 career 20-point games, Baker has registered four in December while reaching double figures 10 times.
LICENSE TO STEAL
Along with his scoring prowess, senior REED BAKER has upped his game on the defensive end with 13 steals over the first five games. Baker registered three steals at Indiana and against SEMO before nabbing a season-best of four at Arkansas to rank second in the A-Sun. For his career, Baker has 17 multi-steal games, highlighted by seven against ETSU on Jan. 12, 2009 - the second most in single-game history.
SEEING DOUBLE, ALMOST TRIPLE
Playing in just his second game at the Division I level, junior MARLON RIVERA fell just one assist shy of become the first player in FGCU history to register a triple-double against Southeast Missouri on Nov. 16. Rivera's dominating performance on both ends of the court featured 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists over 33 minutes.
After finishing second in the A-Sun in field goal percentage as a freshman in 2009-10, ANTHONY BANKS is out to take over the crown in his second campaign. Through five games, Banks sports a 55 percent (27-49) clip from the field, good for ninth in the conference. A career 56 percent (180-319) shooter, Banks has made 50 percent or better from the field in 25 of 34 career games.
The highly-anticipated shooting ability of freshmen duo CHASE FIELER and CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL came to life last game against Miami. Fieler and Varidel each knocked down three trifectas to highlight FGCU's best long range shooting performance of the year. Varidel or Fieler have been in the starting lineup in each of the five games and are averaging 6.8 points and 4.4 points, respectively.
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