Baker, Rivera combine for 44 points to lead Eagles to first win
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a career-high 28 points from senior Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) and a near triple-double from junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC), the FGCU men’s basketball team used a 53-point second half to defeat Southeast Missouri, 89-78, in front of 2,011 fans at Alico Arena in its home opener on Tuesday night.
The backcourt duo of Baker and Rivera combined for 44 points, as the Eagles’ 89 points were their most since entering Division 1 in 2007-08 and the most since Feb. 26, 2007 when they defeated North College and State, 99-62, at Alico Arena.
FGCU moves to 1-1 on the season and improves to 7-2 all-time in home openers at Alico Arena, while Southeast Missouri falls to 0-2.
”I was certainly happy with our effort level,” said head coach Dave Balza. “We’ve been talking about trying to play transition-basketball, or ‘FGCU basketball’ as we put in our scouting report, and I thought we did that tonight. The fans did an excellent job of creating an exciting atmosphere and the student attendance was awesome.”
Baker’s 10th career 20-point game came on 10-of-12 from the field and 7-of-11 from the charity stripe, as the Naples, Fla. product registered 13 points in the first half and 15 in the final frame. Rivera finished just one assist shy of the program’s first-ever triple-double, registering 16 points, 11 rebounds and a game-high nine assists in 33 minutes of action.
Lost in the shuffle of the FGCU’s backcourt’s stellar play was redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks’ (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) 16-point night that came in a foul-plagued 19 minutes. Banks knocked down 7-of-9 from the floor for his second straight 16-point game to start the season.
FGCU shot 56 percent (33-59) from the field for the game, including a sizzling 59 percent (20-34) in the second half. The Eagles’ hot-shooting night was aided by 42 points in the paint and 20 assists on 33 field goals.
Trailing 37-36 at the half, the opening seven minutes of the second period featured three ties and a pair of lead changes, but Southeast Missouri held on to the lead, 55-52, with 12:21 remaining.
FGCU then put together a game-changing 21-4 run that absorbed nearly seven minutes and resulted in the biggest lead of the contest for either team with the Eagles holding a 73-59 advantage. During the scoring spurt, the Eagles knocked down 9-of-15 from the field, while the Redhawks made just 1-of-9 of their shots. Baker capped the run with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 5:23 mark, as he accounted for the final five points.
The Blue and Green’s double figure lead stood for all but one minute and 20 seconds over the final 5:23, securing the team’s first win of the season.
For the second straight game, FGCU reached the foul line 34 times, knocking down 21 of those attempts. Eight different players reached the charity stripe in the game.
Southeast Missouri was led by junior Leon Powell, who turned in his second straight double-double to open the season with 26 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The Redhawks shot 49 percent (31-63) from the field, but were hampered by 21 turnovers that led to 27 FGCU points.
Making his second straight start, junior Tim Snyder (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Hillsborough CC) added eight points, while freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) came off the bench with eight points of his own.
FGCU will be back in action when it hits the road to take on Grambling on Saturday, November 20 at 7 p.m. ET. The Eagles will continue their four games in nine days stretch to open the season when they travel to SEC country to take on Arkansas on Monday, Nov. 22.