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GAME PREVIEW: Eagles Begin A-Sun Road Swing at Mercer
|Florida Gulf Coast||23||31||54|
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||MUM|
|FG Percentage||.417 (20-48)||.460 (29-63)|
|3P FG Percentage||.357 (5-14)||.350 (7-20)|
|FT Percentage||.500 (9-18)||.786 (11-14)|
VARIDEL - 13
CECIL - 7
THOMAS - 3
BROWN - 3
FGCU (5-7, 1-1 A-SUN) at Mercer (9-6, 1-1 A-SUN)
DATE: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012
CITY: Macon, Ga.
SITE: University Center (3,200)
TIP-OFF: 7:30 p.m. ET
LIVE VIDEO: www.ASUN.TV
LIVE AUDIO: www.FGCUATHLETICS.com
LIVE STATS: www.FGCUATHLETICS.com
SERIES: Mercer leads, 7-1
LAST MEETING: @Mercer 74, FGCU 61 - Feb. 12, 2011
CURRENT STREAK: W2
LAST 5 GAMES: 3-2
ON THE ROAD: 0-6
A-SUN ROAD OPENERS: 2-2
AT A GLANCE
Coming off a pair of impressive non-conference wins to end 2011, FGCU will ring in the New Year by jumping back into Atlantic Sun Conference action with a road showdown at Mercer on Monday night at the University Center. The Eagles' two-game conference road swing through Georgia starts a string of four league games in seven days and a 10-game month of January. Both FGCU and Mercer enter with 1-1 records in A-Sun play while the Green and Blue will look to pick up their first road win of the season. Over its recent two-game win streak, the Eagles have set a season-high for points each time, averaging 83.5 points led by 18.0 per game from sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL.
A season-best five players reached double figures in FGCU's last two wins over Toledo and Maine, while the Eagles have had 14 double-digit scorers over the last three games. A total of eight players have reached the double-digit plateau this season, while junior SHERWOOD BROWN (11.8), freshman BERNARD THOMPSON (11.7) and sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL (11.0) all rank in the top 20 in the A-Sun in scoring. Out of the eight different players who have scored double figures, five have led the team in scoring at least once, including three off the bench. FGCU is 3-2 when four or more players reach double figures in the same game and have done so in three straight contests.
Mercer swept the season series from FGCU for the third time in four years in 2010-11. The Bears are 7-1 all-time against the Eagles, including 4-0 at the University Center. Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by 10 points or less.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Mercer enters Monday's game with a league-high nine wins (9-6) on the year and is coming off a tough swing of five straight road games. The Bears defeated ACC foe Georgia Tech on its home court during the swing, while also dropping a tough overtime game at BIG EAST member Seton Hall. Mercer sports the top scoring defense (64.9) in the A-Sun, holding seven opponents under 60 points. Like the Eagles, the Bears have a balanced scoring attack with three double figure scorers and six players averaging at least eight points. Sophomore Langston Hall, an A-Sun All-Freshmen team choice a year ago, leads the team in both scoring (12.3) and assists (3.7). Hall is one of five players in the A-Sun that ranks in the top 10 in scoring and assists. Mercer's defensive prowess is also aided by a league-high 5.1 blocks per game, a figure that is fueled by 36 rejections from 6-foot-10 sophomore center Daniel Coursey.
LAST GAME: Underclassmen Lead FGCU to 84-72 Win Over Maine
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Led by five underclassmen in double figures, highlighted 20 points from sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL (pictured) and classmate CHASE FIELER’S first career double-double, FGCI defeated America East member Maine, 84-72, on Thursday night at Alico Arena. • Varidel’s third career 20-point game came over 26 minutes off the bench, marking the seventh time this season the bench has supplied the team’s leading scorer. The Versoix, Switzerland product knocked down a trio of threes (3-5) while going a perfect 7-of-7 at the free throw line. • As a team, FGCU shot 30-of-37 from the charity stripe, including a solid 25-of-29 in the second half, compared to an 11-of-20 night for the Black Bears. Varidel along with freshmen BERNARD THOMPSON and BRETT COMER all made seven free throws each. Entering the game, the Eagles season-high for free throw makes was 19. • The Green and Blue shot a respectable 47 percent (23-49) from the floor, but were also able to turn 13 offensive rebounds into 20 second chance points. Fieler was a big part of the 20-11 advantage in second chance points, grabbing five offensive caroms en route to a game-high 11 rebounds on the night.
NEW COACH, NEW HOPES
On March 31st, the FGCU men’s basketball program got a new look for its 10th season in program history when ANDY ENFIELD was named head coach. Enfield, who spent the previous five years as an assistant with Florida State, is the second head coach in FGCU’s brief history. While at FSU, Enfield was a part of two teams that advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and back-to-back clubs that lead the NCAA in defensive field goal percentage.
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 25 of his last 43 three-point attempts to move into first in the A-Sun in three-point percentage (.526) and second in threes per game (2.5). Varidel recently reached the 2.5 threes per game mark that is necessary to qualify for the NCAA leaders in three-point percentage. Judging by the Dec. 18th report, Varidel's 52.6 percent mark would rank third in the nation. The Versoix, Switzerland native has made three or more treys in a game seven times this season, including five of the last seven. He has also reached double-digits five times, including a team-best two 20-point outings.
Fueled by a current six-game stretch in which it has shot 46 percent from three-point land (50-110), FGCU leads the A-Sun at 40 percent clip for the season, a mark that would rank in the top 30 nationally according to the Dec. 18th report. The Eagles have made at least eight threes in six straight games and are fourth in the A-Sun at 7.3 per game clip. Sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL leads the conference individually, shooting a scorching 53 percent (30-57) from beyond the arc, while junior SHERWOOD BROWN and freshman FILIP CVJETICANIN are shooting 40 percent or higher with double figure makes. Defensively, FGCU is limiting opponents to 33 percent from long range.
FGCU's freshmen class has wasted little time making an impact, accounting for 47 percent of the scoring, 34 percent of the rebounds and 64 percent of the assists. Led by combo guard BERNARD THOMPSON'S 11.7 points per game, freshmen account for three the Green and Blue's top five scorers. Point guard BRETT COMER is the A-Sun's top assist-man with 5.4 helpers, a mark that ranks fifth among freshmen nationally. Comer is fourth on the team in scoring (8.6) followed by Dante Holmes' 8.3 points. Thompson's 11.7 points are tops among all freshmen in the A-Sun and are joined by 4.8 rebounds per game. Thompson has scored in double figures a team-high nine times, while Comer has done so in five games and both in the same game on five occasions. FILIP CVJETICANIN has reached double figures twice. At least one of the four freshmen has scored in double figures in 10 of 12 games.
All seven of FGCU's losses on the young season have been by 10 points or less and have come by a combined 27 points. The Eagles' six road opponents so far this season currently all have a winning record and a combined mark of 41-20. A trio of one-point defeats in Dallas against TCU (73-72) and SMU (65-64), and at Nebraska (51-50) headlines the heartbreaking losses.
First-year head coach ANDY ENFIELD has used seven different lineups through 12 games trying to find the right combination with his young team. Nine different players have started at least one game, while four freshmen have earned a starting nod. No one has started every game, while three freshmen were in the starting five each of the last four games. At least four underclassmen have started in all but two games.
Ranking among the leaders in the Atlantic Sun Conference in three statistical categories, freshman BRETT COMER is off to a fast start early in the year. Highlighted by a 10-assist effort against Prairie View and ETSU, Comer leads the A-Sun and is fifth among all freshmen nationally in assists per game (5.4). He has reached double figures in five games, resulting in 8.6 points per game. Comer has led the team in assists in all but one game and has passed out seven or more helpers four times.
WE'LL PICK YOU UP
Through 12 games, FGCU owns a 342-248 advantage in bench points, good for a +7.8 margin per game and 28.5 points per contest from the pine. The bench has supplied a double figure scorer in 10 games, including the team's leading scorer on seven occasions, while supplying 25+ points nine times as a unit. At SMU, sophomore CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL poured in 20 points on 6-of-7 from three-point land and turned in another 20-point game against Maine to account for the top two efforts off the bench. At Loyola Maryland, FGCU received a season-high 44 points off the bench, highlighted by a game-high 17 from Varidel and BERNARD THOMPSON.
Sophomore CHASE FIELER has reached double figures in five of the last six games, averaging 9.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and nearly two blocks over that span. Fieler has reached double-digits six times this season compared to five through all of last year, and is coming off his first career double-double. Against Maine, Fieler hauled down a career-high 11 rebounds to go with 11 points and a career-best five assists. Fieler leads the team in both rebounds (5.7) and blocks (1.4), figures that rank 13th and fourth in the A-Sun, respectively. The Parkersburg, W. Va. product also leads the team with five offensive rebounds.
Coming off a season in which he played just 84 total minutes, redshirt junior EDDIE MURRAY is thriving under the guidance of first-year head coach ANDY ENFIELD. Armed with athleticism and leadership, Murray is providing a youthful roster with career-highs of 6.6 points and 4.3 points per game. The Fort Myers product produced his first career double-double against Maine, going for career-bests of 11 points and 14 rebounds over 36 minutes. Murray is shooting a scalding 63 percent (31-49) from the floor over 22 minutes per game. Murray has nearly hit the totals he put up through two full seasons in just 12 games this year.
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 12.1 points per game average off the pine is 4.4 points better than his average in the starting five. Varidel poured in 20 points at SMU and against Maine, 17 at Loyola Maryland and 16 against Toledo to lead the team in scoring all four times off the bench.
Aside from being the league's top scoring freshman (11.7), BERNARD THOMPSON has used is long 6-foot-3 frame to his benefit on the defensive end. Thompson has a steal in 10 straight games, ranking second in the A-Sun at 1.9 thefts per game. During the current 10-game streak, Thompson has nine multi-steal performances. Thompson is on pace for 58 steals, a mark that would finish top five in single-season history. As a team, FGCU equaled a season-high for the third time with 11 steals against Maine.
SECOND HALF SURGE
Highlighted by three second half performances of 15 points by three different players, FGCU has turned in some great stretches over the final 20 minutes. 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. At Nebraska, the Eagles limited the Huskers to just 25 second half points. SHERWOOD BROWN (at Miami), BRETT COMER (Ave Maria) and BERNARD THOMPSON (at Loyola) have all scored 15 points in one second half.