By Chase Henry
The FGCU men’s basketball team lost its opening conference game for the season to Liberty University, 56-49, Thursday night at Alico Arena. Sam Gagliardi led the Eagles in scoring with 14 points, while Jalen Warren also scored 12 points.
Coming out of the gate, FGCU was led by Warren, scoring all four of the Eagles’ points as Liberty jumped out to an early 11-4 lead and never looked back.
Liberty continued to build its lead up to 16-4, and during an eight-minute stretch, FGCU was held scoreless. The streak was broken from two Tracy Hector Jr. two free throws with 7:49 left in the first half.
The half closed as the two teams battled for the scoring edge, with FGCU finding life offensively, but still conceding scoring to the Flames, as the scoring edge finished at 14-12, in favor of the Flames.
FGCU’s play improved in the second half, but the improvement was not enough for a win. The Eagles shot about 65% as a team in the second half and edged out Liberty in points 30-29, compared to shooting just under 22% in the first half and being outscored 30-19 by the Flames
The Flames were able to keep FGCU’s two leading scorers for the season, Caleb Catto and Zach Scott, to a combined seven points, much below their season average of a combined 21.3 points.
“I thought we played really well in the second half,” said head coach Michael Fly. “By the numbers, [Liberty] is the No. 2 defensive team in the country, so if you’re able to shoot almost 65% against the second-best team in the country, and if you don’t turn the ball over 18 times, you win the game.”
FGCU men’s basketball team gets to continue its home stint when the team plays Lipscomb University, Saturday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m.