Eagles extend win streak to three games with first-ever win against JU
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Freshman Christophe Varidel’s (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) three-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining helped FGCU capitalized on another gutsy effort on the offensive glass and defense end en route to a thrilling 56-55 Atlantic Sun win over third-place Jacksonville on Thursday night at Alico Arena.
Varidel’s game-winning three-pointer came just seconds after JU’s Keith McDougald gave the Dolphins a 55-53 lead with 9.2 seconds remaining.
The win is the third in a row for FGCU and its first-ever against Jacksonville, as it improves to 9-18 overall and 6-12 in the A-Sun. The Eagles also stretch their home win streak to four games during which they’ve held the four opponents to just 48 points per game. Jacksonville, who was 7-0 against the Eagles, falls to 19-9 on the season and 13-6 in the A-Sun. The Dolphins have already clinched the third seed in the A-Sun Tournament.
The game pitted the A-Sun’s top two offensive rebounding clubs against each other with the Eagles holding the top spot. The matchup proved to be one-sided, as FGCU controlled the glass to the tune of a 44-27 edge for the game. Included were a season-high 19 offensive caroms that led to a 17-4 edge in second chance points.
After establishing a new career-high just two nights ago, sophomore Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) paced the Eagles by equaling that total of 18 points on 7-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-7 from long range. After missing his first four three-point attempts and being held scoreless the opening 35 minutes of the game, Varidel made his last three long range field goals in the final five minutes to finish with nine points.
FGCU’s edge on the glass came primarily from the starting frontcourt duo of junior Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies/Calvary Christian/Ole Miss) and redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS), who combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds, including eight offensive. Cantinol’s 12 points equaled his season-best to goal along with seven rebounds. Banks’ 11-point and nine-rebound evening was highlighted by him grabbing his 100th offensive rebound of the year, giving him two straight seasons of 100 or more offensive caroms.
Two-time A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Ayron Hardy led Jacksonville with 12 points, while fellow starting forward Delwan Graham rounded out JU’s double figure scorers with 10 points.
Junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) passed out nine assists to help the Eagles post their second straight positive assist-turnover game (15-13). During his nine-assist night, Rivera became the first player in program history to surpass 150 rebounds and 150 assists in the same season.
Trailing 9-2 just five minutes into the first half, FGCU came right back with a 13-4 run of its own that was ignited by eight points from Brown. The Orlando product started things with a breakaway dunk off a steal from Rivera and capped the run with back-to-back threes from the left baseline that gave the Eagles a 15-13 edge with exactly 10 minutes on the clock.
A jumper by Banks gave the Blue and Green their biggest lead of the half (6), 21-15, with 6:53 left in the period. The Dolphins managed just six points over a near nine-minute span after taking their largest lead of the game, at 9-2.
JU cut the FGCU advantage to one on a pair of occasions down the final minutes of the half before the Eagles eventually took a 27-24 lead into the half. It marked the sixth time this season the Eagles have held an A-Sun opponent to 30 points or less in the opening half. The Eagles were able to overcome a rough shooting half by turning 12 offensive rebounds into 12 second chance points.
Just as it has during the team’s previous three straight home wins, defense fueled a strong start to the second half for the Eagles, as they held JU without a point over the first 7:27. FGCU only scored six points of its own during the Dolphins’ scoreless drought, but did up their lead to 33-24.
The Eagles hit an offensive skid of their own over the next six minutes, going without a single point while the Dolphins reeled off 13 straight points to take a 37-33 lead with 9:24 remaining.
FGCU refused to go away, though, producing the third big run of the half by scoring the game’s next 12 points to take a 45-37 advantage. Cantinol and Banks supplied the first six points of the run, while Brown, for the second time in the game, hit back-to-back three-pointers with the last coming at the 6:38 mark to give the Eagles a eight-point lead.
Jacksonville battled right back and tied the game at 45-45 with 4:56 to play before Varidel struck with the first of his three long range field goals over the final stretch to give the Eagles the lead for good, at 48-45 (4:34).
For the game, the Eagles shot just 37 percent (23-63), but got off 15 more field goal attempts due to their aforementioned prowess on the offensive glass. Jacksonville finished at a 44 percent clip (21-48) from the floor.
FGCU will close out the home portion of its 2010-11 season on Saturday evening against A-Sun and in-state rival UNF. Gametime is slated for 7:30 p.m. or 30 minutes after the women’s game, which begins at 5:15 p.m. Prior to the start of the game, the Eagles will honor senior Chad Lutkenhaus (Labelle, Fla./Labelle HS), who will play in his final game at Alico Arena.