In case anyone was looking for any doubt that the Atlantic Sun is FGCU’s conference to lose, keep looking.
The Eagles shot 57 percent from the floor, held a more than two-to-one edge on the glass, and routed North Florida on Monday, 103-70 in a rematch of last year’s ASUN conference finals at Alico Arena.
“It’s been a bit of a grind the last week or so with the amount of games we’ve had, I thought throughout the game guys kept on giving us good energy,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley said. “Good team effort.
UNF opened the game with a three, one from Garrett Sams at the top of the key, but that would be the only time all night they would hold a lead, or even look close to the Eagles.
Zach Johnson slammed down a pair of alley-oops in transition, and FGCU was off to the races, reeling off 13 straight points. Johnson led the Eagles with 16 points, adding seven assists and seven rebounds.
“It was fun. I think we definitely played FGCU basketball,” Johnson said. “Everything was tough and aggressive and hopefully we can build on it.”
The onslaught didn’t stop. Antravious Simmons started a 14-0 run that saw yet another Johnson slam in transition. When Michael Gilmore hit a baseline jumper, the Eagles were up 51-24 on the Ospreys. The Eagles shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half.
Gilmore had a double-double, his second in three games, with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“I’m just trying to focus on playing hard and let the game come to me,” Gilmore said.
FGCU(17-8, 8-0 ASUN) had their way with the Ospreys inside. Several times throughout the night Eagle players were able to drive into the paint with ease, and forwards could work down low without issue.
The Eagles finished with 66 points in the paint, the most they’ve ever had against a Division I school, and they
outrebounded the Ospreys(10-15, 4-4) 48-22, including 14-2 on the offensive glass.
And one of those UNF offensive rebounds was immediately stolen away by Christian Carlyle.
“For the most part we’ve been much more conscientious about it,” Dooley said of his team and limiting second-chance opportunities. “One thing we did a good job of doing was not giving up long rebounds. With a lot of long shots there’s a lot on long rebounds.”
With a team reliant on the three-pointer, the Eagles were able to take advantage of long rebounds, and get their guards out in transition going the other way. Brandon Goodwin and Christian Terrell were both in double figures, 13 points each, as the Eagles had a 22-5 edge on fast break points.
There were quibbles to be had – Dooley wasn’t too happy with allowing UNF to shoot 55 percent in the second half – but one of the key trouble spots on the year, turnovers, were hardly found. The Eagles had been averaging 16.6 turnovers per game coming in, most in the conference, but had just eight on Monday.
“One of our guys in the locker room didn’t think we turned it over at all,” Dooley joked. “We can do that. We’re capable of doing that, and that’s a significant thing for us to keep getting better.”
Sophomore forward RaySean Scott Jr. returned on Monday after missing the last four games with a concussion. Scott scored 12 points in 10 minutes off the bench.
“He shot the ball well,” Dooley said. “[He] allows us to give Michael a break, and we were able to play big with three centers.”
Junior Ricky Doyle remains in the concussion protocol, and was seen on the bench with a nasty shiner on his left eye. Doyle was suspended from Wednesday’s game against North Florida, along with Goodwin, and was said to be in the concussion protocol on Saturday before the Jacksonville game.
Stetson and USC-Upstate almost allowed FGCU to take a commanding lead for the conference regular-season title Monday, as a pair of near-upsets nearly up the Eagles three clear of the conference.
Already clear of second-place Jacksonville(12-13, 6-2) by two games, the Dolphins escaped with an 87-86 win over Stetson(10-15, 2-6). J.D. Notae was fouled on a three at the buzzer while down by one, and hit the first two to steal the win.
Meanwhile Lipscomb(15-8, 5-3) needed double overtime to get past last-place USC-Upstate(6-19, 1-7), 110-106. Garrison Mathews hit a pair of free throws with less than a second left in the first extra period to force the second.
at Jacksonville, Saturday
at NJIT, Feb. 8
at USC-Upstate, Feb. 10
vs Kennesaw State, Feb. 15
vs. Lipscomb, Feb. 17
at Stetson, Feb. 22
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