Eagles Look To Pick Up First A-Sun Win At USC Upstate
Sunday, January 09, 2011

FGCU (3-11, 0-5) at USC Upstate (2-13, 1-4)
Monday, Jan. 10, 2011
CITY: Spartanburg, S.C.
SITE: Hodge Center (1,535)
TIP-OFF: 7:30 p.m. ET
SERIES: FGCU leads, 3-2
LAST MEETING: Upstate 59, FGCU 52
Feb. 25, 2010
LAST GAME: ETSU 84, FGCU 65 - Jan. 8
UP NEXT: vs. Kennesaw State - Jan. 14, 2011

FGCU will close out its two-game Atlantic Sun road swing on Monday night when it takes on USC Upstate at the Hodge Center. The Eagles are hoping that last year's 86-82 win in Spartanburg will help them breakout of their recent four-game losing streak and 0-5 start to A-Sun action. The Spartans defeated ETSU for their lone conference win of the season, but enter on a seven-game losing streak.

Close games have been a staple in the five meetings between the two teams, including three contests decided by seven points or less. Last year, the visiting team was victorious in both games with Upstate getting the last laugh in Fort Myers in the season finale. FGCU owns a 3-2 edge in the all-time series and has won the first of two meetings between the two schools the last two seasons.

The start of the Atlantic Sun season for the Eagles has featured the league's toughest schedule. FGCU's first five opponents (Belmont, Jacksonville, Lipscomb, UNF, ETSU) have a combined record of 18-6 in conference action so far and occupy the four spots in the standings and five of the top six.

Like FGCU, USC Upstate is in their final transition year into Division I and will be fully eligible for A-Sun and postseason play next season. The Spartans have lost four games by 10 points or less and sit at 2-13 overall and 1-4 in the A-Sun. Upstate handed ETSU (4-1) its only A-Sun loss of the season and its four conference losses have come by seven points per game. The Spartans are coming off a heartbreaking 74-71 loss to Stetson on Monday despite 24 points, six rebounds and seven assists from freshman Torrey Craig. One of the lead candidates for A-Sun Freshman of the Year, Craig boasts team-bests of 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Craig is averaging 19.6 points and 8.6 boards in A-Sun action. Senior guard Josh Chavis drilled a season-high six three-pointers last game against Stetson to finish with 18 points. Chavis and Craig combined for 11 threes against the Hatters as the Spartans sank 13 for the game - the most by an A-Sun team this season. Standing 6-foot-7, freshman Babatunde Olumuyiwa ranks in the top 20 nationally in blocks per game (2.7).

Dave Balza
@ FGCU: 146-111 (9th Season)
Overall: 181-160 (12th Season)
Atlantic Sun: 18-43 (4th Season)
Vs. USC Upstate: 3-2

Eddie Payne
@ Upstate: 117-133 (9th Season)
Overall: 377-366 (26th Season)
Vs. FGCU: 2-3

The inside-out combination of redshirt sophomore forward ANTHONY BANKS and senior guard REED BAKER give FGCU the third-highest scoring duo in the A-Sun. Both have finished in double figures in eight of 14 games and have led the Eagles in scoring 34 of their 43 contests together, including 11 of 14 contests this season. For their careers, both have reached double figures in the same game 20 times, while the duo has combined to score 35 or more points six times this season and 40 or more three times.

Redshirt sophomore ANTHONY BANKS has been on a strict offensive rebounding diet, collecting a staggering 54 offensive boards this season, including nine against ACC foe Miami which equaled his career-best. Banks leads the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (3.9). He has grabbed five or more offensive rebounds in a game seven times this season and 16 for his career. He ranks 11th in the A-Sun at 6.3 caroms per contest. Against Lipscomb (Jan. 5), Banks gathered his 150th career offensive rebound.

Junior MARLON RIVERA has taken over the reins of the point guard position and leads the A-Sun in assists per game (32nd nationally) at a 5.5 clip. Rivera has led the team in assists 12 times, highlighted by five outings with seven helpers or more. On Dec. 21 in a win over N.C. Central, Rivera dished out 12 assists - the second-most in the program's Division I history and one of three double-digit performances by an A-Sun player this season. FGCU has had a player dish out 100 or more assists in six of the program's first nine seasons.

Freshman CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL leads the team and ranks seventh in the Atlantic Sun in three-pointers per game (2.1). Out of Varidel's 31 made field goals on season, 29 have come from beyond the arc. Varidel has made three or more trifectas in a game five times and is shooting at a respectable 38 percent. Over the last two games, Varidel is averaging 12 points thanks to eight three-pointers.

The versatility of ANTHONY BANKS is on full display again this season. Banks leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game while leading in field goal percentage (.513), rebounding (6.3) and offensive rebounds (54). Banks has led the team in scoring seven times, rebounding seven times and both in the same game on six occasions. He's reached double figures in a team-best 12 games while posting a league-best four double-doubles.

Not equipped with a lot of size in the paint, FGCU makes up for it by staying active on the offensive glass. Led by ANTHONY BANKS, the Eagles are tied for second in the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (12.9). FGCU has grabbed double figure offensive boards in 38 of its last 44 games, including 11 this season. Banks is a year removed from grabbing 100 offensive caroms and has 154 for his career compared to 126 defensive rebounds.

Redshirt sophomore ANTHONY BANKS' four double-doubles in 13 games are just one off his total from all of last year. Banks is trying to track down Landon Alder's single-season Division I record of six set in 2007-08. Alder is the all-time leader with 22 career double-doubles, while Banks is third with nine.

With his strong play on both ends of the court, junior MARLON RIVERA is one of two players in the A-Sun in the top 15 in assists per game, top 5 in rebounds per game and top 5 in steals. The FGCU floor general's 5.6 rebounds per game are 15th in the A-Sun, while he's third in steals per game (2.0). Rivera also averages 7.1 points and has reached double figures three times. Against Lipscomb, he led the team in points (14), rebounds (7) and assists (6).

20/20 VISION
The A-Sun's sixth leading scorer, senior REED BAKER has reached the 20-point plateau four times 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, while the duo combined for 46 points against N.C. Central. The three games marked the fourth, fifth and sixth 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 five of the six occasions. The Naples, Fla. product has 13 career 20-point games.

After transferring to FGCU after his freshman season at Michigan, senior REED BAKER is having the best season of his collegiate career. Baker ranks eighth in the A-Sun in scoring at 14.4 points per game and has finished in double figures in nine games, including 20 or more four times. The Naples, Fla. product is one of two players in the A-Sun with two or more games of 25+ points.

With a fast start to his senior campaign, REED BAKER is rapidly approaching the 1000-point plateau for his FGCU career. Thanks to his team-best 14.4 points per game, Baker is just 51 points away from becoming the third player in program history to score 1,000 points. He currently sits in fourth place all-time with 949 points and has a 12.8 scoring average over 74 games.

With 15 steals over his last six games, junior MARLON RIVERA has 25 steals to rank third in the A-Sun (2.0). Rivera has a steal in all but one game, including seven multi-steal contests.

Now 14 games into his collegiate career, freshman CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL is starting to feel comfortable in his role off the bench. Over eight games off the pine, Varidel is averaging 8.2 points compared to 5.6 points over five games as a starter. All three Varidel's double figure scoring efforts have come off the bench, including a season-best 16 points at UNF in the A-Sun opener. The Versoix, Switzerland native ranks ninth in the A-Sun with 1.92 three-pointers per game.

After sitting out from game action for a year and a half, junior KEVIN CANTINOL has put together strong back-to-back games. Cantinol is averaging 10.5 points over the last two contests after going for 11 on Saturday night at ETSU. Cantinol played just two games his sophomore season at Ole Miss before transferring to FGCU mid-season and having to sit out a full year.