Wednesday night provides the ASUN Game of the Year at the UNF Arena, as its the preseason’s top team Florida Gulf Coast University (15-6) visiting the second-best squad in North Florida (9-13). The Ospreys carry a 6-3 home record with three straight wins when having home court. Three of the Eagles’ four conference wins are on the road. Both teams are 4-1 in the league.
FGCU played its game of the year on March 3, 2016 when they knocked North Florida out of the ASUN Tournament; that’s according to FGCU coach Joe Dooley. Having taken two of the three games last year, the Eagles come in as the favorite. But flip a coin for this epic showdown. Coverage Wednesday from the UNF Arena can be heard at 7 p.m. on 1010XL. To watch the live stream, check out ESPN3 with Brent Martineau and former Osprey Demarcus Daniels.
FGCU and UNF will meet for the 24th time. The Eagles lead the overall series 13-10, but North Florida has won six of the 11 at the UNF Arena. However, FGCU (a 4 seed) embarrassed the top-seeded Ospreys in the ASUN semifinal to end UNF’s chances of a second straight NCAA appearance. Following the Eagles’ 89-56 win, UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said, “To their credit, they dominated us in every single facet there was … they crushed us on every energy play.” Like the Lipscomb game from 2016, the Ospreys remember enough of that drubbing to make Wednesday revenge-worthy.
Last year’s ASUN Player of the Year Dallas Moore is coming off a 36-point night in defeating Lipscomb on Saturday. Moore has 10 career 30-point games – with seven this season. After the two games at home, the senior is third in the nation for scoring at 23.7. His five league games have been magical. The way Moore is playing he’ll become the first back-to-back ASUN POY since Jeff Sanders did it in 1988-89.
FGCU guards Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson combined for 40 points in the Eagles’ win over NJIT. How the Ospreys defend those two will set the tone early. Other than Goodwin and Johnson, FGCU has the conference preseason player Marc-Eddy Norelia coming off the bench. He missed six games before ASUN play. Norelia is such an impact guy, just look at his 16 double-doubles in 2015-16.
For the last five games and 12 of the last 13 the Ospreys have started: Dallas Moore (#14), Aaron Bodager (12), Garrett Sams (11), Wajid Aminu and Romelo Banks (33). Banks had his most impressive defensive game of his career against Lipscomb. He had two blocks and a career-high 12 rebounds.
For the NJIT game, FGCU went with: Brandon Goodwin (#00), Zach Johnson (5), Rayjon Tucker (3), Christian Terrell (11) and Demetris Morant (21). In conference play, the Eagles have also started RaySean Scott, Jr. (13) and Antravious Simmons (32).
Notable: Antravious Simmons left the NJIT game Saturday after only two minutes on the court. Will he be available after suffering an injury that night? In the three UNF games last season, Simmons put up around nine points and averaged eight rebounds.
About Florida Gulf Coast:
The preseason favorite in the ASUN has the conference’s longest win streak of seven games this season. The past four years it’s been FGCU and UNF atop the league. FGCU’s only ASUN loss was Thursday at home. USC Upstate got an offensive rebound and bucket from Michael Buchanan with 1.9 seconds left to win 62-60. But FGCU rode to its first double-digit league win Saturday, in a smackdown of NJIT. The Eagles’ first four ASUN games were decided by a total of 10 points.
There’s a three-way tie for first place, with FGCU losing to Upstate. The Ospreys beat the Spartans in the second ASUN game of the year. Will Wednesday give us a clearer picture or just jumble up the top of the conference even more?
Overall guard play depth is at its best in the conference for the Eagles. They have four players scoring over nine points per game. Each of them has made anywhere from 21 to 39 threes. How FGCU defends Dallas Moore will be the biggest tell of which side heads to the locker room smiling? The Ospreys are 7-1 when scoring at least 80 points.
How UNF Can Win:
The Ospreys have to defend and rebound defensively like they did Saturday against Lipscomb. In the conference’s game of the year, UNF will have to stay out of foul trouble and make sure Aaron Bodager and Aaron Horne are making smart plays like they have done the last two games.