Banks registers fourth double-double as Eagles lose 14-point lead
TOLEDO, Ohio – After jumping out to a 14-point lead midway through the first half, the FGCU men’s basketball team couldn’t hold off a hot-shooting Toledo club in the final frame en route to a 75-63 loss on Saturday night at Savage Arena.
The game was truly a tale of two halves, as the Eagles took a 37-30 lead into halftime only to see the Rockets out-score them 45-26 in the second half.
The heartbreaking loss is the sixth in a row for FGCU (2-7), who quickly turns its attention to its first home game in 24 days when it hosts N.C. Central on Tuesday, Dec. 21. Toledo has now won two in a row and stands at 2-9.
Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) was the lone constant in the game for the Eagles, collecting his A-Sun-leading fourth double-double. Banks led all scorers with 23 points and a team-best 10 rebounds. Banks accounted for 14 of the team’s 26 points in the second half and eight of 21 rebounds.
Senior Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) was the only other player in double figures with 15 points thanks to a season-high four three-pointers. Banks and Baker have combined for 35 or more points in five games this season.
Five players reached double figures for Toledo, led by J.T. Thomas’ 16 points off the bench. Freshman Reese Holliday put together his second straight double-double with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
FGCU jumped out to its seven-point halftime lead thanks to a 42 percent (14-33) shooting clip, including 7-of-14 from long range, over the first 20 minutes. The Eagles hit an offensive wall in the second half, shooting 24 percent (8-33) from the floor, while Toledo produced a 50 percent clip (12-24).
Both teams sported positive assist-turnover ratios, led by FGCU’s 15 helpers to a season-low seven turnovers. The battle on the boards finished tied at 40-40, but the Eagles did pick up 15 offensive rebounds, led by five from Banks who now has 36 on the year.
Averaging just over four three-pointers per game entering the night, FGCU took control of the game early thanks to some sharp shooting over the opening 5:20, taking an 17-5 lead on the strength of an impressive 16-0 run. Baker got the run started with a three-pointer and contributed another later in the spurt, as freshmen Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W.Va./Parkersburg South) and Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) also got into the act with a three of their own.
Varidel continued his hot shooting and extended the team’s lead by burying two more long range field goals, including one from NBA range on the left wing, while a dunk from Banks made it 26-12 in favor of FGCU at the 11:01 mark.
The FGCU lead hung around double-digits until it went over two minutes without a point, as Toledo rattled off a brief 5-0 run to make it 30-24 (3:57).
Along with its improved three-point shooting, FGCU also cut down on its turnovers to take a 37-30 lead the half – its first halftime lead on the road this season. The Eagles committed just two turnovers over the first 20 minutes.
FGCU was able to build on its halftime lead and owned a 47-38 advantage at the 15:26 mark until a three-pointer by Toledo’s Zach Leahy as the shot clock expired gave momentum to the home team and ignited an 8-0 run that cut it to a 47-46 contest with 14 minutes left.
Over the next eight minutes, the game featured five lead changes and four ties until Toledo produced the last lead change with a 6-0 run that turned a 56-55 FGCU lead into a 61-56 advantage for the home team.
The run was just the beginning for the Rockets, as they limited the Eagles to just five points over the final 5:03. The Eagles made just two of their last 12 field goal attempts. Toledo finished with the 75-63 victory by out-scoring FGCU 9-2 in the final two minutes.
Both Fieler and Varidel finished with nine points on a trio of three-pointers. Fieler also added seven boards, while junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) had another solid floor game with seven rebounds, a game-high five assists and four steals. Playing in his second game as an Eagle, junior Kevin Cantinol (Clearwater, Fla./Calvary Christian HS/Ole Miss) had a career-high eight rebounds in foul-plagued 16 minutes.
FGCU will return to the friendly confines of Alico Arena for the first time in December when they host North Carolina Central (4-5) on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 5:15 p.m. The game is the front end of a doubleheader with the women’s program (8-0), who will host Big Ten foe Indiana (6-4). The home date against NC Central is the start of a four-game homestand for the Eagles.