When FGCU took the spotlight as the only 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet 16 in 2013, La Salle advanced to the Sweet 16 the same year as a 13 seed, flying under the radar.
On a three-game losing streak, FGCU men’s basketball will be looking back to its Dunk City days for some inspiration. On New Year’s Eve day, the Eagles will host fellow Sweet 16 Cinderella Story La Salle, that is also on a losing streak of four games, in an afternoon game.
So far this season, FGCU is averaging 42.5 rebounds per game compared to 32.1 for La Salle. Rebounding will be a deciding factor in Thursday’s game, as the Explorers have been outrebounded in all of their season losses so far, while FGCU has not yet won a game when it is outrebounded. In their six wins, the Eagles are averaging 48.7 rebounds and outrebounding their opponents by a 10.5 margin.
A few key players are easily identified off the Explorers bench, including a trio of scorers known for their ability to finish. Jordan Price ranks 12th in the nation in scoring at 22.6 per game. Cleon Roberts averages 11.2 per game and Johnnie Shuler adds 10.3 per game. FGCU post players will be fighting for the boards against Tony Washington and Shuler a majority of the game. Shuler also ranks 3rd in the A-10 in free-throw shooting at 91.3 percent
Although on a losing streak, some Eagles continue to personally develop on the floor. Sophomore Christian Terrell scored a career-high 25 points Monday versus South Dakota and also added a career-best five steals. Redshirt junior Marc-Eddy Norelia secured his sixth double-double of the season against the Coyotes with 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
This game will conclude non-conference regular season play for the Eagles. La Salle is the second Atlantic 10 Conference member FGCU will play this year, with the first being UMass. In that contest on Dec. 13, freshman Rayjon Tucker converted the game-winning and-1 finish with 10 seconds left to knock off the Minutemen, 77-76. Nine of FGCU’s 11 games against Division 1 opponents have been decided by a 10-point margin or less.
The 1:30 p.m. game against La Salle can be watched on ESPN3 or online at WatchESPN.
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