FGCU Aims To Bounce Back At Jacksonville
Friday, December 03, 2010

FGCU (2-4, 0-1) at Jacksonville (5-1, 1-0)
Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010
CITY: Jacksonville, Fla.
SITE: Veterans Memorial (5,181)
TIP-OFF: 3:15 p.m. ET
TALENT: Tom James (Play-by-Play)
LIVE VIDEO: Atlantic Sun TV
SERIES: Jacksonville leads, 6-0
LAST MEETING: Jacksonville 68, FGCU 62
February 11, 2010 (Box Score on Page 2)
LAST GAME: UNF 81, FGCU 74 - Dec. 2

FGCU continues its Atlantic Sun opening weekend road swing on Saturday afternoon against two-time defending conference champ Jacksonville. The Eagles will look to put an end to both a season-long three-game losing streak and JU's current five-game win streak. FGCU opened A-Sun play with a hard-fought 81-74 loss at UNF, while the Dolphins turned in a 70-61 win at home against Stetson. The second-best scoring tandem in the A-Sun, senior REED BAKER and redshirt sophomore ANTHONY BANKS have combined to score 30 or more points four times this season and 40 or more twice. Banks is averaging 20 points and nine rebounds over his last two games, while Baker has posted 19 points and four steals per contest over the same span.

Jacksonville has dominated the all-time series, taking all six meeting since FGCU joined the A-Sun in 2007-08. The Dolphins have won the six meetings by an average of 14.3 points per game. The closest meeting in the series came last year in February at Veterans Memorial when JU pulled out a 68-62 win despite 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor by redshirt sophomore ANTHONY BANKS. Banks has enjoyed a pair of good games against the Dolphins, averaging 19 points and 8.5 rebounds over two contests.

Predicted to finish fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference in the preseason by both the media and league head coaches, Jacksonville enters with 5-1 record. After a season-opening loss at Miami, the Dolphins have won five straight, highlighted by a convincing 14-point victory at SEC foe Auburn. JU is lead by arguably the A-Sun best all-around player in Ayron Hardy. The senior wing leads the Dolphins in every statistical category, ranking among the A-Sun leaders in scoring (13.2/12th), rebounding (6.7/8th), assists (4.2/7th) and offensive rebounds (2.3/10th). Hardy, a two-time A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, leads the league in steals with 24. Sophomore forward Glenn Powell is right behind Hardy in both scoring (10.7) and rebounding (5.5). As a team, Jacksonville leads the A-Sun in scoring defense (63.8), holding three of its opponents to 55 points or less. The Dolphins are 3-0 at home this season.

Dave Balza
@ FGCU: 145-104 (9th Season)
Overall: 180-153 (12th Season)
Atlantic Sun: 18-39 (4th Season)
Vs. Jacksonville: 0-6

Cliff Warren
@ Jacksonville: 77-81 (6th Season)
Overall: Same
Atlantic Sun: 54-41 (6th Season)
Vs. FGCU: 6-0

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 five of six games and have led the Eagles in scoring 29 of their 35 contests together, including 11 straight, dating back to last season. For their careers, both have reached double figures in the same game 17 times and currently stack up as the second-best scoring tandem in the A-Sun.

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 lead the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (15.2). FGCU has grabbed double figure offensive boards in 33 of its last 36 games, including all six this season. A year removed from grabbing 100 offensive caroms, Banks already has 24 this season to lead the A-Sun, including 14 in his last two games. As a team, FGCU has 35 offensive rebounds in its last two contests led by 19 at UNF on Thursday night.

20/20 VISION
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 20 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.

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 four players in the A-Sun in the top-15 in assists per game and rebounds per game. The FGCU floor general has dished out nine assists in each of FGCU's two home games and ranks fifth in the league in assists per contest (4.3). Rivera's 5.8 rebounds per game rank 13th in the A-Sun to go along with his 7.5 points.

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 15.0 points per game while leading in field goal percentage (.545), rebounding (6.3) and offensive rebounds (24). Banks has led the team in scoring three, rebounding three times and both in the same game on two occasions. He's reached double figures in five games while posting a league-best two double-doubles.

Over the last six games, FGCU has taken 18 charges led by seven from sophomore ANTHONY BANKS.

Senior REED BAKER has not only scored in double figures in all six games this season, he's reached the double-digit plateau in six halves. Baker enters Saturday afternoon's game with double figure points in six of the last 10 halves, including five straight in the final frame where he is averaging a healthy 11.2 points.

With a career scoring average of 13.1 points per game at FGCU, senior REED BAKER has several big games in the month of December. Baker sports a scoring averaging of 14.7 points over 16 games 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 11 times.

Along with his scoring prowess, senior REED BAKER has upped his game on the defensive end with 19 steals over the first six games. Just a year ago, Baker registered just 25 steals and is just six away from equaling that total. With an average of 3.2 steals per game, Baker ranks second in the A-Sun being JU's Ayron Hardy (4.0) - a two-time A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year. For his career, Baker has 18 multi-steal games, highlighted by seven against ETSU on Jan. 12, 2009 - the second most in single-game history. Baker nearly equaled his career-high with six last game at UNF.

Now six games into his collegiate career, freshman CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL is starting to feel comfortable in his role off the bench. Over three games off the pine, Varidel is averaging 11 points, including recent back-to-back double figure performances. Varidel has also found his rhythm from beyond the arc, knocking down a trio of three-pointers in each of the last two games. The Versoix, Switzerland native ranks ninth in the A-Sun with 1.8 three-pointers per game - the most by a league freshman.

FGCU opened its home schedule in style on November 16, scoring a program Division I record 89 points during a win over Southeast Missouri. Senior REED BAKER led the scoring frenzy with a career-high 28 points to fuel a 53-point second half. Junior MARLON RIVERA just missed recording a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Over the first six games, FGCU has made 190 trips (31.7 per game) to the charity stripe, 55 more attempts than its opponents. The Eagles have knocked down just 117-of-190 free throws, but it has led to a +4.7 scoring margin per game. After earning just 88 trips to the free throw line in 2009-10, senior REED BAKER is a healthy 37-of-43 this season to rank third in the A-Sun. Baker has knocked down his last 15 free throws.

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.