The FGCU men’s basketball squad may have lost this game in the previous two seasons.
But these Eagles are hoping Tuesday’s 67-66 victory over Rhode Island at Alico Arena is a sign of things to come.
They didn’t look good though in the first period, when they were 14 points behind and then trailed 11.
“I told our guys at halftime that we’ve now played multiple games, we’ve played two scrimmages against really high level teams, and that was the worst half I’ve seen us play in terms of just not having the energy we normally have,” FGCU coach Michael Fly said. We were not playing with emotion or confidence as we do normally. I thought guys were turning down some shots.
“We got into them at the halftime break and told them, ‘Here is the good news. Since we started coaching this team, I have never witnessed this team play so poorly. And you are only down 11. Play the same way as before, and you will win. Credit to them for believing that and doing the same in the second part.
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Rhode Island’s Malik Martin scored a driving layup, and FGCU star Kevin Samuel was fouled with 7.3 seconds to go. Martin converted both free throws for a lead of 66-65.
Tavian Dunn Martin, a Duquesne Transfer, was able to drive to the basket, but was fouled in the final 3 seconds. He made the free throws and scored the winning point. He scored 26 points, shooting 8 of 13 and making all eight of his free shots.
Dunn Martin stated that he was simply trying to reach the basket, and try to touch the rim. “If I miss, I figure (Kevin Samuel) was going to tip it in for the win. “Fortunately, we were given the foul.”
“When he’s up at the line, there was no part of me that thought he was going to miss a shot just because he’s built for those moments,” Fly said. “He loves big moments. These moments are his favorite.
At the buzzer Makhi Mitchell’s 3 rebounded from the rim and the Eagles (3-2) won their first Division I victory of the season.
Dunn Martin went for the ball, made a steal and was fouled by the Eagles. There were 2.3 seconds left. Mitchell grabbed the ball again and took a look at it, though he was a long way off.
Fly explained, “When that ball fell from his hand, that is one of those situations you just go: ‘Please don’t let this happen. Don’t ruin my Thanksgiving.’ “The ball has been in the air for quite a while.”
Caleb Catto (14) hit three 3-pointers for FGCU to stay in the game after the Rams (2-2) took a 27-14 lead.
This weekend, the Eagles will be at home to face Western Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana and Purdue Fort Wayne during the Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Invitational, which takes place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday and Saturday are scheduled at 7. Sunday will be at 6 pm.
There are 3 things you need to know
1. Dunn-Martin owns URI.Duquesne’s transfer to Duquesne was 4-1 against Rams. Rams are also in Atlantic 10. The Duquesne transfer went to 4-1 against the Rams, who are also in the Atlantic 10. He had nine points, six assists, and 14 in last season’s win. Last year, he was able to make four of eight 3-pointers in their second meeting.
He stated that FGCU had lost at Loyola Chicago as well as at home against USC during the Dunk City Reunion Game. “I feel like two things went by earlier in this season.” “I felt like we came together as teams in the second half. We put together stops and then the lid came off and we started to make some shots. That’s what I feel helped us win.
2. Catto makes sure they are there.Catto finished with 14 points. However, the most memorable were his back-toback 3-pointers that brought the Eagles within 27-20 after the first period. A third was added in the second half to reduce the Eagles’ halftime lead to 11 rather than 14.
Fly stated, “Big shots from him.” Caleb and I have spoken about this. In his time here, he’s seen a lot, starting with a rebuild to last year’s COVID. Caleb Catto, with the work he’s put in, and the unbelievable ambassador for the program he’s been, he deserves to have some success. This is what he’s done.
“I almost felt internally that when he made those shots, it was almost Caleb’s way of saying, ‘Uh-uh guys, we ain’t going down this road. This is the road I have traveled. I’m going to continue this journey. I’m going to keep us in this game, whatever I have to do.'”
Catto stated, “It’s good for me to see the ball in the hoop.” Catto said, “I have been kind of struggling shooting so it’s always nice to see the ball go into. I just kind of let the flow of the game come to me, and the opportunity presents itself, just shoot it.”
3. Mixing up.For a large portion of the second period, the Eagles used a matchup zone and did a better job than the first. After URI’s only three turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, they forced eleven second-half turnovers. Each Zach Anderson and Catto had three steals. After shooting an average of 42.3%, the Rams only made 3 of 15 3-pointers (21%) After committing 10 turnovers in their first half, FGCU had only four turnovers during the second period.
Fly stated that he had been pushing them to do more to make themselves tougher and to become more physically fit. He also stressed the importance of being disciplined. “I thought in the USC game (a 78-61 loss a week ago) we played hard enough to win in the USC game, but we played uncharacteristic in terms of turnovers and shot selection.
“I thought tonight in the second half we were the tougher team. I thought we were the more physical team. We were more aggressive, I believed. Our team was the most focused and disciplined. This is what worked best for us.
Greg Hardwig is the sports reporter at The News-Press (Naples Daily News) and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
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