FGCU Travels North To Take On No. 2 Ohio State
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FGCU (2-5) at No. 2 Ohio State (8-0)
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
CITY: Columbus, Ohio
SITE: Value City Arena (19,049)
TIP-OFF: 6:30 p.m. ET
TELEVISION: Big Ten Network
TALENT: Tom Hamilton (Play-by-Play)
Tony White (Analyst)
CHANNELS: Direct TV - 610/Comcast - 742
SERIES: First Meeting
LAST GAME: Jacksonville 71, FGCU 56 - Dec. 4

FGCU returns from its 11-day break from game action on Wednesday night when it heads to Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio to take on the undefeated No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The game will be the first of two on the Eagles' five-day swing through Ohio and can be seen live on the Big Ten Network beginning at 6:30 p.m. OSU is 5-0 at Value City Arena this season, winning by an average of 26 points. FGCU hopes the debut of Ole Miss transfer KEVIN CANTINOL (6-9, 253 lbs) will help it snap its four-game losing streak, as it faces a Big Ten team ranked No. 2 in the nation for the second straight year. Last season, the Eagles opened at No. 2 Michigan State.

After having successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot over the summer, Atlantic Sun preseason All-Conference choice ANTHONY BANKS is starting to return to form. Not expected to return until late November, Banks has played all seven games this year, but has picked up his play over the last three games averaging 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. Banks has led the team in scoring in each of the last three games with two double-doubles and a remarkable 21 offensive caroms.

Led by two-time Big Ten Player of the Week freshman Jared Sullinger, No. 2 Ohio State enters with an 8-0 record. Sullinger had a record-setting week in wins vs. IUPUI and Western Carolina to earn his second Big Ten Conference Player of the Week and fourth Freshmen of the Week awards. Against IUPUI, Sullinger poured in 40 points, an Ohio State freshman record and the first 40-point game for a Buckeye since 1986. He is the first Big Ten freshman to earn player of the week honors twice in a season since Greg Oden did so for the Buckeyes in 2006-07. Sullinger leads Ohio State with 18.0 points per game, while senior David Lighty, who is fully recovered from a broken foot this summer, is second on the team with 12.5 points. Junior William Buford (11.7), freshman Deshaun Thomas (11.6) and senior Jon Diebler (11.3) round out the quintet of double figure scorers. Buford is just 14 points away from becoming the third active OSU player (Lighty, Diebler) to reach the 1,000-point plateau. The Buckeyes have held four opponents to less than 50 points and own a +23.6 scoring margin. Head coach Thad Matta has led Ohio State to 8-0 starts three times over his seven-year tenure in Columbus. The Buckeyes started 11-0 in 2005-06 and 9-0 in 2008-09.

Entering just the ninth season in program history, including the fourth in Division I, FGCU will square off against an Ohio State program that has been in existence since 1898-99 (112th year) and has nine Finals Fours (1939, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1968, 2007), four national runner-ups and one National Championship (1960) to its credit. FGCU joined the Atlantic Sun in 2007-08, while Ohio State has been a member of the Big Ten since 1912.

Wednesday night's game at Ohio State will be the fifth time FGCU has taken on a member of the Big Ten. The Eagles are 0-4 all-time against the Big Ten after falling to Indiana, 88-60, in the season opener.

FGCU is 1-12 all-time against BCS foes after picking up a win over BIG EAST opponent DePaul last season at Alico Arena. DePaul was the first BCS men's basketball program to come to Fort Myers, while all other 12 contests have been played on the road. Ohio State is the fourth BCS foe FGCU has squared off against this season.

The inside-out combination of redshirt sophomore forward ANTHONY BANKS and senior guard REED BAKER give FGCU one of the most prolific scoring duos in the A-Sun. Both have finished in double figures in five of seven games and have led the Eagles in scoring 30 of their 36 contests together, including 12 straight, dating back to last season. For their careers, both have reached double figures in the same game 17 times and currently stack up as the third-best scoring tandem in the A-Sun. The duo has combined to score 30 or more points four times this season and 40 or more twice. Baker and Banks ranks third and eighth, respectively, in scoring, while the three teams supply six of the top eight scorers in the league.

Redshirt sophomore ANTHONY BANKS has been on a strict rebounding diet over the last three games, collecting 10.7 caroms per contest - the best three-game stretch of his career. Banks has grabbed a staggering 21 offensive boards over the three games, including nine against ACC foe Miami which equaled his career-best. Banks leads the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (4.4) and as of Dec. 9 ranked tied for eighth in the nation. He currently ranks fifth overall in the A-Sun at 7.4 caroms per contest.

After transferring to FGCU after his freshman season at Michigan, senior REED BAKER is having the best season of his collegiate career. Baker ranks third in the A-Sun in scoring at 17.7 points per game. Baker has finished in double figures in six of seven games, including 20 or more a team-best three times. The Naples, Fla. product also ranks second in the conference in steals per game (2.7) and free throw percentage (.872).

Not equipped with a lot of size in the paint, FGCU makes up for it by staying active on the offensive glass. Led by preseason All-Conference choice ANTHONY BANKS, the Eagles lead the A-Sun in offensive rebounds per game (15.2). FGCU has grabbed double figure offensive boards in 34 of its last 37 games, including all seven this season. A year removed from grabbing 100 offensive caroms, Banks already has 31 this season to lead the A-Sun, including 21 in his last three games. As a team, FGCU has 50 offensive rebounds in its last three contests.

20/20 VISION
The A-Sun's second leading scorer, senior REED BAKER has reached the 20-point plateau a league-high three times already this season. Baker was joined by junior TIM SNYDER in the 20-point club at Grambling, while ANTHONY BANKS scored 21 points to Baker's 20 against Miami. The two games marked the fourth and fifth time, respectively, that a pair of players has gone for at least 20 points in the same game since FGCU joined Division I. Baker has been a part of four of the five occasions. The Naples, Fla. product has 12 career 20-point games.

Junior MARLON RIVERA has taken over the reins of the point guard position with his strong play on both ends of the court. Rivera is one of four players in the A-Sun in the top 15 in assists per game, rebounds per game and steals per game. The FGCU floor general has dished out nine assists in each of FGCU's two home games and ranks fifth in the league in assists per contest (4.4). Rivera's 5.7 rebounds per game rank 15th in the A-Sun, while his five steals last game at Jacksonville moved him to ninth in the league (1.9). Rivera also averages 7.9 points and has reached double figures twice.

With a fast start to his senior campaign, REED BAKER is rapidly approaching the 1000-point plateau for his FGCU career. Thanks to his team-best 17.7 points per game, Baker is just 129 points away from becoming the third player in program history to score 1,000 points. He currently sits in fourth place all-time with 871 points and has a 13.0 scoring average over 67 games.

The versatility of ANTHONY BANKS was on full display in 2009-10 and the redshirt sophomore is back at it again this season. Banks in second on the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game while leading in field goal percentage (.512), rebounding (7.4) and offensive rebounds (31). Banks has led the team in scoring four times, rebounding four times and both in the same game on three occasions. He's reached double figures in six games while posting a league-best three double-doubles.

Senior REED BAKER has not only scored in double figures in six of seven games this season, he's reached the double-digit plateau in six halves. Baker enters Wednesday night's game with double figure points in six of the last 12 halves, including five in the final frame where he is averaging a healthy 10.7.

Along with his scoring prowess, senior REED BAKER has upped his game on the defensive end with 19 steals over the first seven games. Just a year ago, Baker registered just 25 steals and is just six away from equaling that total. With an average of 2.7 steals per game, Baker ranks second in the A-Sun behind JU's Ayron Hardy (3.1) - a two-time A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year. For his career, Baker has 18 multi-steal games, highlighted by seven against ETSU on Jan. 12, 2009 - the second most in single-game history. Baker nearly equaled his career-high with six last game at UNF.

Now seven games into his collegiate career, freshman CHRISTOPHE VARIDEL is starting to feel comfortable in his role off the bench. Over three games off the pine, Varidel is averaging 11 points compared to 5.5 points over four games as a starter. Both of Varidel's double figure scoring efforts have come off the bench, including a season-best 16 points at UNF in the A-Sun opener. The Versoix, Switzerland native ranks 14th in the A-Sun with 1.7 three-pointers per game.