The Eckerd Tritons took the FGCU Eagles’ floor on Saturday afternoon, ready to face its second Division I opponent of the year. The Eagles struggled against the Division II team, fighting for the lead the entire game.
FGCU had 22 turnovers, the most turnovers thus far this season, yet the Eagles still took a 68-57 win. What the score doesn’t reflect is what it took the Eagles to get there.
Saturday’s game was played under the rim and at the free-throw line. Combined, both teams had 64 points from the paint. Of those, The Tritons had 15 second-chance points put up after winning the offensive rebound.
FGCU found 17 points at the free-throw line, reflecting the physicality of the game, which put them on the line to begin with.
The first half was difficult for the Eagles. The Tritons held the lead for more than 14 of the 18-minute half. The teams retreated to their respective locker rooms with a 34-33 score at halftime. The Eagles held the lead only because of a free throw made in the final minutes by Marc-Eddy Norelia. The lead had changed 5 times by the end of the first 18 minutes.
“We didn’t prepare today like we need to,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “To their credit they started it off on us. Marc got us off on the second half, and we played much better in the second half.”
The second half opened with a quick layup by Norelia, and fans were hopeful that this was what the second half would look like for the Eagles.
The Eagles got sloppy and handsy, and the Tritons capitalized where they could. The Tritons found their positioning on the defensive end, pressuring the Eagles and causing them to lose their floor sight.
The Eagles made 11 turnovers in the second half, more turnovers than the Eagles have tallied in most of their games this season. On the offensive side, the Tritons made their way to the paint with ease and pushed The Eagles to play with their hands rather than their feet.
“The energy was better,” Dooley said. “The biggest thing is turning the ball over. We’ll figure it out. I know we have a lot of moving pieces, but passing and catching is a very simple thing.”
Seven fouls by the 7th minute of second-half play had three key FGCU players in foul trouble: Christian Terrell, Antravious Simmons and Norelia.
The D-II visitors, although capitalizing on FGCU’s mistakes, could not make up for the Eagles’ sharp shooting.
Eckerd went 1 in 7 to open the second half. Through the first 8 minutes in the second half, Eckerd managed to score 4 points. As the deficient grew larger, the game got became a cycle game with all hands and less shooting. Only one Eagle was without a foul Saturday.
What started as a one-point lead, despite turnovers, a loss of floor vision and minimal rebounds, grew to an 11-point win for the Eagles.
The Eagles are set to host Webber International on Tuesday.