A rematch of last year’s Atlantic Sun title game comes a round early on Thursday, as the FGCU men’s basketball team plays host to No. 5 seed North Florida in an ASUN semifinal.
Of course, comparing last year’s game to this years is kind of apples and oranges, especially for North Florida.
Last year’s UNF team had the dynamic and prolific scoring Dallas Moore. This year’s team has no big single scoring target, Ivan Gandia-Rosa leads them at 14 points per game, but they have six players that average double figures.
For the last few years, the Ospreys have been referred to as the “Birds of Trey.” They’re attempting about five more threes per game than they were last year, about 29 per game now, and they hit about 11 of them.
They shoot the ball from every position, you have to guard the three-point line,” guard Zach Johnson said.
In a winner-take-all environment, the ability to get hot can be a game-changer, and nothing can inject more uncertainty than the three-point shot.
You could say that it’s a good thing, then, that the Eagles just dealt with another high-volume three-point shooting team in USC-Upstate on Monday.
But the experience doesn’t translate.
“You have to guard both of them differently,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley said. “They put you in some weird ball screen situations and they’re good in transition.”
FGCU won both regular season matchups between the two schools. They won a 96-87 game in Jacksonville on Jan. 24, but that was without Brandon Goodwin. With their star point guard in the lineup for the home leg five days later, the Eagles trounced the Ospreys, 103-70.
It’s been clear all season long that the Eagles are far and away the most talented team in the conference, it’s just been a matter of if they show it. For every game like the 103-70 dismantling, there’s been a headscratcher, like the late comeback needed at Lipscomb, or the inexplicable home loss to Kennesaw State.
So it’s not just about what’s on paper, it’s about putting it all together. And that’s the key.
“As long as we play our game and do what we’ve been doing all year,” Johnson said.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Pound it Inside – UNF is all-in on the three-point shot. This comes with a trade-off: little interior presence. Antravious Simmons just had one of his best games of the season on Monday, expect that to continue, along with a heavy dose of RaySean Scott Jr.
Long Rebounds – Jump shooting teams miss shots too. And some of those misses take awkward bounces. On Jan. 29, Dooley kept his guards back from crashing the boards to corral those long rebounds and get out in transition. That plan worked extremely well.
Contest Shots, Don’t Fear Volume – Volume shooters sometimes make contested shots. They won’t make them often enough to matter.
FGCU vs. NORTH FLORIDA
Atlantic Sun Semifinal
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Alico Arena, Fort Myers
Broadcast: ESPN3(Tom James, J. Webb Horton)
Radio: FOX Sports Radio(David Moulton)
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