Hurricanes hold off Eagles with 13 three-pointers
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Despite a double-double from redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) and another 20-point outing by senior Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan), FGCU was unable to overcome a hot shooting performance from Miami en route to an 87-75 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday night in front of 2,862 fans at Alico Arena.
Miami sank 13 three-pointers and made 18-of-20 from the free throw line in the second half to improve to 4-2 on the season. The loss drops FGCU to 2-3 heading into the opening weekend of Atlantic Sun play when the Eagles travel north to Jacksonville for a pair of games.
“Our focus was to stop their interior play because of their size and force them to make shots,” said head coach Dave Balza. “Unfortunately for us, they made shots and that was the difference. Despite that, I thought we battled and was extremely pleased with our effort. We had our leaders turn in some great performances, but I was really happy to see some of our young guys knock down some shots.”
FGCU shot a solid 44 percent (26-59) from the field and made a season-high nine three-pointers (9-20), but was out-scored by 12 points from beyond the arc and 10 points at the free throw line. Miami finished 13-of-33 from long range and a scorching 24-of-27 at the line.
The Eagles were able to stay within arm’s reach of Miami throughout the contest thanks to a season-best four players reaching double figures. Banks led all scorers with 21 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Banks’ 11 boards were highlighted by nine on the offensive end, as the Eagles grabbed 15 for the game to finish with a 26-14 edge in points in the paint.
Baker’s third 20-point game of the season featured 11 points in the second half, as the Naples product sank 8-of-16 from the field. Baker has now reached double-digits in the final 20 minutes four times this year. Freshmen Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) and Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) contributed season-highs of 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Five players reached double figures for Miami, led by junior Malcolm Grant with 20 points. Backcourt mate Durand Scott had a good all-around game with 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while 6-foot-10, 303-lb. sophomore forward Reggie Johnson collected his fourth double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami opened an 11-point lead, 28-17, with 9:02 left in the first half by knocking down 6-of-9 from three-point range to start the contest.
Five different players registered at least one point during a 10-3 FGCU run late in the opening frame that took a 12-point deficit, 35-23, and turned it into a 38-33 Hurricane lead with 4:16 to play.
The Miami lead quickly grew back to double-digits, though, as the Hurricanes took a 50-39 advantage into the locker room after shooting 53 percent (17-32), including 10-of-20 from beyond the arc. Banks nearly totaled a double-double by halftime with nine points and eight rebounds.
FGCU opened the second half on an offensive skid, managing just five points over the first six minutes as the Hurricanes built their largest lead of the game, 61-44, with 13:52 remaining.
With the Miami lead hovering in double-digits, FGCU used a quick 8-2 spurt to ignite the crowd and climb within seven points, 67-60. Banks brought the 2,862 fans to their feet with an up-and-under move through the Miami bigs to cap the run at the 8:24 mark after he began the spurt with an old-fashioned three-point play followed by a trifecta from Varidel.
With the Blue and Green mounting a comeback, Miami went back to what got it the lead, drilling a pair of three-pointers to quickly build its lead up to 14, at 76-62. The double-digit Miami lead remained for all but two seconds over the final 6:45.
FGCU finished with a positive assist/turnover ratio for the second time this season with 15 assists and a season-low 14 turnovers. Junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) led the charge with a season-best nine assists to lead the Eagles.
Led by Banks’ nine offensive rebounds, FGCU has now gathered double figure offensive rebounds in all five games this season and 31 out of the last 34 contests.
FGCU will now turn its attention to A-Sun action when it travels to UNF on Thursday, Dec. 2 for a 7:45 p.m. tip. Two days later, the Eagles will take on Jacksonville on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 3:15 p.m. Both games are part of doubleheaders with the women’s program, while Saturday’s contests can be heard live on www.FGCUAthletics.com.