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Men’s Basketball Attains First Win in All-Time Series Over the Knights

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Jessica Piland

On Feb. 10, the FGCU men’s basketball team returned home for a one-off home game. They welcomed the 6-19 Bellarmine University Knights, who entered this game in last place in the ASUN Conference standings. The Eagles clawed themselves out of an early deficit to win 63-52 for their first win against Bellarmine in program history.

FGCU was coming off of a two-game losing streak. The Eagles lost their last two games against the North Alabama Lions and the Eastern Kentucky Colonels by single digits to drop their record to 10-15. This put the Eagles in a three-way tie for seventh place in the ASUN standings, right on the cusp of tournament elimination.

Bellarmine entered this game on a two-game losing streak of their own. The Knights had dropped their most recent games against the Queens Royals and the Stetson Hatters, contributing further to the Knights sitting in last place at 2-8 in conference play coming in.

The Eagles started the game on the back foot as they went down by five points in the early stages of the night. Graduate student and guard Franco Miller Jr. put an end to this scoreless drought off of a second chance layup. This was then followed up with a layup by freshman guard Rahmir Barno off of a fastbreak to close the deficit to 5-4.

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Both teams struggled to score as neither team had double digit points through the first 10 minutes of the first half. Junior guard Dallion Johnson shined in the first half for the Eagles as he made three 3-pointers and two free throws for 11 points. This allowed FGCU to end the half with a 29-28 lead in what had been a back-and-forth contest to that point.

This was a tough night for the Eagles, as their two scoring leaders on a per-game average, senior guard Isaiah Thompson and junior forward Zach Anderson, combined for just 10 points. This launched Johnson as well as fellow junior, forward Josiah Shackleford, and senior forward Keeshawn Kellman into the limelight, as they had to be the backbone of the team throughout the game.

FGCU controlled the second half by scoring 20 points in the paint and securing 21 rebounds. This helped the Eagles outscore the Knights by 10 points in the process, in part due to Shackleford and Kellman’s eight rebounds and 19 points between them. In the last 2:48 of the game, FGCU held Bellarmine scoreless when they were only down by four at that time. The Eagles went on to defeat the Knights 63-52.

Head coach Pat Chambers spoke after the game about Shackleford and Kellman and what he had expected of them heading into this game.

“Those two went after each other Thursday and Friday. What I mean by that is they really competed versus each other,” Chambers said. “They really pushed one another. And I knew they were going to play well.”

Throughout the season, the one aspect of play that the Eagles had been struggling with at times was rebounding. In this game however, FGCU collected a total of 41 rebounds that were spread across both sides of the ball, especially on the defensive side. Chambers talked after the game about what that kind of performance securing rebounds meant for the team in the win.

“I think we’re rebounding the ball very well,” Chambers said. “Specifically Keeshawn and Shack [Shackleford] and Cyrus, those three and ZA [Zach Anderson], I think those four really doing a nice job getting us extra possessions because tonight you needed those extra possessions cause the ball was not going in for us.”

This win marked history for the Eagles, as it was the first time they defeated the Knights. The Bellarmine Knights joined the ASUN Conference heading into the 2020-21 school year and in the first five matchups between the two schools in men’s basketball, Bellarmine defeated FGCU in every one of those meetings up until this game.

Kellman and Johnson each scored 17 points for the Eagles, contributing over half of FGCU’s total points scored. This marked back-to-back double digit scoring games for both players as they head into their first off week in a month. Johnson provided input into what it means to have a break after a tough road schedule.

“I’m definitely excited to get a little rest, you know, we’ve been going hard every time we lose, we get right back in the gym, go hard in practice, so it definitely feels good to get away being able to rest with that win under our belts,” Johnson said.

With this victory, the Eagles raise their record to 11-15 on the season and an ASUN Conference record of 5-6. After a brief trip to Stetson this weekend, FGCU returns home on Feb. 22 to face the Kennesaw State Owls.

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About the Contributors
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.
Jessica Piland, Eagle News Photo Editor
Jessica Piland is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in global studies. She found her passion for photography during her senior year of high school after shooting some film for fun with her grandfather’s camera from the 80s. In addition to her work as photo editor for Eagle News, she works as a staff photographer for FGCU Athletics and is a photography intern with the University Marketing and Communications department. As she enters her third year as photo editor, she is excited for the fun stories, campus events, and breaking news that Eagle News will be covering!

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