NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a 24-4 run to open the second half, Belmont earned its second win of the season over the FGCU men’s basketball team with a convincing 89-56 victory Friday night at the Curb Event Center in the Atlantic Sun Game of the Week televised on CSS.
The loss snaps a two-game win streak for the Eagles, who slip to 5-14 overall and 2-8 midway through the conference schedule. The Bruins, who received a vote in this week’s ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll, improve to 19-4 and now half a game and half lead in the A-Sun standings at 11-1.
“Give Belmont a ton of credit for how well they execute on both ends of the floor,” said head coach Dave Balza. “We feel we can learn a lot from them during our transition period about what it takes to get to that level. They are a premiere program in our league and it shows. That being said, we are disappointed with the outcome, but I think we worked hard. We’ve got to continue to work on our deficiencies leading into Sunday.”
For the fifth time in the last seven games, freshman Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) led FGCU in scoring with 15 points on the strength of 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Varidel has reached double figures in seven straight games. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The A-Sun leader in scoring offense, defense and three-pointers per game as a team, the Bruins excelled in all three areas en route to the win. Belmont knocked down 48 percent (30-63) from the floor for their 14th game of 80 or more points, limited FGCU to 37 percent (17-46) shooting and knocked down 11 three-pointers.
Entering the game with 11 players averaging double figure minutes, Belmont received 48 points from its bench, including a game-high 16 from junior Scott Saunders. Out of the 12 players that saw time for the Bruins, 10 registered a field goal while 11 saw double-digit minutes.
Despite grabbing 15 offensive rebounds for the third straight game, FGCU took 27 less shots than Belmont thanks to a season-high 29 turnovers. The Blue and Green’s miscues led to a 41-6 advantage in points off turnovers for the Bruins.
Along with his 16 points, Saunders also hauled in a game-high nine rebounds off the bench to lead Belmont. Sophomore Ian Clark, the reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year, scored 15 points, including 11 on the team’s 24-4 run to open the second half.
The two teams traded baskets early on as the only four ties in the entire game led to an 8-8 score at the 15:49 mark. Led by its lethal three-point shooting, Belmont put an end to the back-and-forth possessions by embarking on a 18-0 run that featured a trio of long range field goals and seven FGCU turnovers. The end result of the game-changing run that lasted over five minutes was a 26-8 Bruin lead.
Trailing 34-17 with 4:56 left in the half, FGCU brought the Belmont lead down to double-digits after back-to-back three-pointers by freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South) and Varidel made it 36-27 (2:57). Varidel, who entered the game averaging 19 points over his last three games, capped the 10-2 run with his first three.
Six straight points helped balloon the Belmont lead back up to 15, 42-27, but Varidel was able to score the final five points of the frame to finish the half with 12 points and bring the Eagles to within 42-32. Nine of the 11 players who saw time for the Bruins in the opening 20 minutes registered a bucket as the bench had 25 of the 42 points.
Any momentum FGCU hoped would carry over from the first half was put to bed, as Belmont put the game away with a 24-4 run to start the second half. Clark drilled a trio of three-pointers over the first eight minutes of the final frame to help the Bruins build a 30-point advantage, 66-36, with 12:42 to go.
Junior Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies/Calvary Christian/Ole Miss) had eight of his 10 points in the second half, while adding a career-high eight rebounds. Cantinol and Banks both had four offensive rebounds to lead the Eagles to a 37-33 edge on the glass.
FGCU will stay in the “Music City” for its next A-Sun clash when it heads across town to take on Lipscomb (13-8, 8-4) Sunday afternoon. Tip time is slated for 3 p.m. ET and can be heard live for free on www.FGCUATHLETICS.com. Voice of the Eagles Tom James will have the call live from Allen Arena.