GAME PREVIEW: FGCU Opens A-Sun Action Against ETSU
Friday, December 02, 2011
The Eagles are 2-0 at Alico Arena this season (Photo by Dennis Snyder).
The Eagles are 2-0 at Alico Arena this season (Photo by Dennis Snyder).
ETSU (3-4, 0-2 Asun)
Florida Gulf Coast (3-5, 1-0 Asun)
12/3/2011 | Fort Myers, Fla. (Alico Arena) | Attendance: 2365
Florida Gulf Coast363672
Stats at a GlanceETSUFGCU
FG Percentage.349 (22-63) .540 (27-50)
3P FG Percentage.313 (5-16) .400 (8-20)
FT Percentage.700 (14-20) .625 (10-16)
Offensive Rebounds238
Defensive Rebounds1720
Total Rebounds4028
Bench Points1817
Statistical LeadersETSUFGCU
PointsSOLLAZZO - 17
BROWN - 20
ReboundsHUBBARD - 11
AssistsSOLLAZZO - 6
COMER - 10
StealsSOLLAZZO - 3
BlocksPODERIS - 1

FGCU (2-5, 0-0 A-SUN) vs. ETSU (3-3, 0-1 A-SUN)
DATE: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011
CITY: Fort Myers, Fla.
SITE: Alico Arena (4,500)
TIP-OFF: 5:15 p.m. ET
TALENT: Tom James (P-B-P)
J. Webb Horton (Analyst)
SERIES: ETSU leads, 6-1
LAST MEETING: ETSU 66, @FGCU 59 - Feb. 4, 2011

Coming off its biggest break (5 days) of the season, FGCU will return to Alico Arena for first time since Nov. 17, when it opens Atlantic Sun play on Saturday against ETSU. The Eagles are coming off a hectic opening month of the season in which they played seven games in 17 days, including four straight on the road. FGCU's five road losses have come by a combined 21 points, while six of its seven games this season have been decided by 10 points or less. The Green and Blue are 2-0 at Alico Arena this season under first-year head coach ANDY ENFIELD, while the Buccaneers are 1-3 on the road and coming off a 73-65 loss at Stetson on Thursday. The road game will be the third in six days for ETSU, duplicating a road swing FGCU had last week at ACC foes Miami and Maryland capped with a trip to Loyola University Maryland.

FGCU will look snap a five-game losing streak against ETSU on Saturday. The Eagles' lone win against the Buccaneers came at Alico Arena in 2009 where the last three meetings have been decided by 10 points or less. Sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL reached double figures in both games last year against ETSU, knocking down a combined seven three-pointers en route 15.5 points per game.

Saturday marks the first time in FGCU's five seasons in the Atlantic Sun Conference that it will open league play at home. The Eagles are 2-2 all-time in A-Sun openers and all four games have been decided by seven points or less.

Predicted to finish second in the Atlantic Sun, ETSU enters on a two-game losing streak, including a 73-65 setback at Stetson on A-Sun opening night Thursday. The Buccaneers are 1-3 on the road, but picked up arguably the A-Sun's best win at Atlantic 10 member Charlotte on Nov. 22. The opposite of the youthful Eagles, ETSU's starting five has been the same in five of six games and is full of upperclassmen. Led by a strong trio of seniors, ETSU's starting five accounts for 86 percent of the team's points, while the bench has supplied just one double figure scorer. Junior college transfer Marcus Dubose has made an immediate impact, leading the team and ranking third in the A-Sun in scoring (14.7). Preseason A-Sun All-Conference big man Isiah Brown is coming off his fourth career 20-point game. Brown is second on the squad in scoring (13.3) and leads the way with 6.5 caroms per contest. Senior point guard Adam Sallazzo is third in the conference in assists (5.0) while adding 11.5 points. Preseason All-Conference guard Tommy Hubbard is returning from a season-ending injury in 2010-11, averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds through six games.

First-year head coach ANDY ENFIELD has used four different lineups through seven games trying to find the right combination with his young team. Nine different players have started at least one game, while freshman point guard BRETT COMER and senior big man KEVIN CANTINOL have started all seven contests.

Through seven games, FGCU owns a 208-137 advantage in bench points, good for a +10.1 margin per game. The bench has supplied a double figure scorer in six games, including the team's leading scorer on four occasions. At SMU, sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL poured in 20 points on 6-of-7 from three-point land, while junior SHERWOOD BROWN'S 19 points against Ave Maria give the bench the top two scoring efforts by an Eagle this season. Last game at Loyola Maryland, FGCU received a season-high 44 points off the bench, highlighted by a game-high 17 from Varidel and BERNARD THOMPSON.

A big part of the early success of the FGCU bench has been the performances by freshman BERNARD THOMPSON and sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL off the pine. Both have also been in the starting lineup, but have turned in season-highs off the bench. Thompson has reached double figures all three games off the bench, averaging 14.7 points while shooting 53 percent (16-30). Varidel's 11.5 points per game average off the pine is nearly four points better than his average in the starting five. Varidel poured in 20 points at SMU and 17 at Loyola Maryland to lead the team in scoring both times.

Highlighted by his first career double-double at Miami, junior SHERWOOD BROWN has carried over a strong finish to his sophomore campaign into this season. Brown has reached double figures three times, ranking third on the squad in scoring (10.6) and tops in rebounding (5.9) - figures that rank 22nd and eighth in the A-Sun, respectively. Sparked by a career-high 26 points in last year's season finale at USC Upstate, Brown finished last February (10 games) with a 11.2 scoring average - more than four points above his season mark. Brown reached double figures in each of the final four games, averaging 18.3 points while leading the team in scoring three times.

Three different FGCU players are averaging double figure points on the young season with another is just a tenth of a point under the double-digit mark. The Eagles are one of six teams in the A-Sun with at least three double figure scorers. Seven different players have scored double-digit points in a game, while four different players have led the team in scoring, including three off the bench. Looking further, six players are playing 20 or more minutes per game, while nine players are above 13 per contest.

FGCU's freshmen class has wasted little time making an impact, accounting for 46 percent of the scoring, 34 percent of the rebounds and 68 percent of the assists. Combo guard Bernard Thompson and point guard BRETT COMER rank first and second on the team in scoring at 11.9 and 11.1 points, respectively. Comer is also the team's top assist man with 4.7 helpers per contest, a mark that rank fourth in the A-Sun. Thompson's 11.9 points are second among all freshmen in the A-Sun and are joined by 5.7 rebounds per game. Thompson has scored in double figures a team-high six times, while Comer has done so in four games and both in the same game on four occasions. The duo was joined in double figures by classmate FILIP CVJETICANIN in the win over Prairie View A&M. DANTE HOLMES is the final member of the freshman quartet that is having a big impact, averaging 5.8 points in 18 minutes per game.

Highlighted by three second half performances of 15 points by three different players, FGCU has overcome first half deficits in five of its games by averaging 38.9 points over the final 20 minutes while limiting its opponents to 32.6. Freshman BRETT COMER has been one of the catalysts to the second half turnaround, averaging 8.3 points over the span while passing out 20 assists that have led to 50 more points. As a team, FGCU is shooting 51 percent (97-189) in the second half, including 28-of-66 from three-point land. At Miami, FGCU tied a program D-1 record for second half points given up by limiting the Hurricanes to 18 points on 4-of-24 from the field. Last game at Loyola, the Eagles scored a season-high 50 second half points.

Sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL is starting to find his stroke that helped him finish fifth in the nation among all freshmen in 2010-11 with 78 three-pointers. Varidel has made 11 of his last 17 three-point attempts to move into fourth in the A-Sun in three-point percentage (.516) and sixth in threes per game (2.3). The Versoix, Switzerland native has made three or more treys in a game three times this season and reached double-digits the same number of times. Varidel is also a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line.

Despite lacking a ton of size, FGCU has out-rebounded all seven opponents this season, owning a +5.1 margin on the boards to rank fourth in the A-Sun. The Eagles are also averaging double-digit offensive caroms (12.4) that have helped them score 20+ points in the paint each contest and 74 over the last two. The last two games, FGCU has pulled down a season-best 17 offensive rebounds that led to another season-high in points in the paint (42) at Maryland. FGCU's top two rebounders come from the backcourt, as junior SHERWOOD BROWN'S team-high 5.9 rebounds rank in the top 10 in the Atlantic Sun.