JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The FGCU men’s basketball team couldn’t get passed 20 points and 20 rebounds from ETSU senior Mike Smith, as the Buccaneers jumped out to a 14-point halftime lead en route to a 84-65 Atlantic Sun win over the Eagles on Saturday afternoon at the MSHA Athletic Center.
Smith put together a double-double in each half with 10 points and 10 rebounds in each frame to finish with the rare 20-20. He did most of his damage on mid-range jumpers and put-backs, accumulating 14 defensive rebounds and six offensive.
The FGCU bench turned in another strong came with 34 points, giving it 70 over the last two games. With the loss, the Eagles fall to 3-11 overall and 0-5 in the A-Sun. ETSU, who owns road wins over Dayton and Mississippi State this season, has now won four games in a row to move to 9-7 and 4-1.
For the second straight game, freshman Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) led the charge off the bench for FGCU with 12 points on four three-pointers. Varidel has eight threes in his last two games, while 29 of his 31 field goals on the year are from long range.
Junior Kevin Cantinol also came off the bench to put together his second consecutive solid game with 11 points and five offensive caroms. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) chipped in with 10 points for his team-best 12th double figure outing of the season.
Smith’s 20 points was tied for the game-high with teammate Adam Sollazzo who knocked down 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Senior Justin Tubbs and junior Isiah Brown each scored 16 points to help ETSU’s starters account for 76 of the team’s 84 points.
For the game, the Bucs shot 52 percent (27-52) from the field, while the Eagles put together a 35 percent clip (22-63). FGCU was able to stay within striking distance despite its field goal percentage due to turning the ball over just 11 times.
Solid defense helped FGCU take an early 4-0 lead, as the Eagles held the Bucs without a field goal over the first 4:37 of the game.
After coming away with points on just two of its first seven possessions, all free throws, and trailing 4-3, ETSU registered a field goal in six of its next seven possessions to open a 17-10 lead. The Bucs managed three points over the first four and half minutes and then scored 14 over the following four.
The Eagles were able to keep it close by scoring on three straight trips down the floor capped by a three-pointer from freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South) that cut the deficit to 19-15 with just under 10 to play.
That would be as close as the Eagles would be the rest of the half and eventually the game, as ETSU ripped off a 10-0 run that equaled its largest lead of the half (14), 29-15, with 6:23 remaining.
ETSU owned a 39-25 lead at the half and never looked back, holding a double-digit over the entire final 20 minutes.
The Bucs also held a 44-29 edge on the glass, limiting FGCU to 12 offensive rebounds while grabbing 35 defensive rebounds. The Eagles used the 12 offensive caroms to hold a 15-10 lead in second chance points that mostly came on put-backs by Banks and Cantinol.
Junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) and sophomore Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) each had nine points for the Eagles. Brown’s nine came off the bench, while Rivera added five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
FGCU concludes its two-game A-Sun road trip on Monday, Jan. 10 at USC Upstate. Tip time at the Hodge Center is schedule for 7:30 p.m. and is a doubleheader with the FGCU women’s program who improved to a perfect 12-0 with its win at ETSU today.