Final two non-conference games and A-Sun schedule unveiled
FORT MYERS, Fla. – FGCU men’s basketball coach Dave Balza announced the final two non-conference games and the entire 20-game Atlantic Sun Conference slate on Saturday afternoon to finalize the team’s 2010-11 schedule.
"We are excited about the challenging schedule that we have assembled,” said Balza, who leads the program into its fourth year in Division I as a member of the A-Sun Conference. “We have a good slate of non-conference games against some high profile opponents that our fans should enjoy watching. Most importantly, we are looking forward to meeting our goal of challenging for the league title in the A-Sun Conference. The conference is coming off one of its highest ranked years ever, and it is expected to be even tougher this year."
With a trip to reigning Big Ten regular season and tournament champ Ohio State on Dec. 15 already set, the Eagles will extend their stay in Ohio by taking on Toledo (4-28) on Saturday, Dec. 18. A member of the MAC, the Rockets will be led by first-year head coach Tod Kowalczyk, while the meeting at Savage Arena will be the first between the two teams.
The final game of the non-conference slate will come well into the A-Sun season when FGCU travels to Bowling Green, Ky. and E.A. Diddle Arena to take on Western Kentucky on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14). The Hilltoppers are fresh off a 21-13 season in which they finished third (12-6) in the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference. WKU has produced 20 or more wins in six straight seasons and 40 of 91 seasons in program history. Led by third-year head coach Kevin McDonald, the Hilltoppers are vying for their third Sun Belt title in the last four years.
With the addition of Toledo and Western Kentucky, FGCU’s final non-conference schedule features dates against a program single-season high four BCS programs (Indiana, Arkansas, Miami, Ohio State) and four showdowns against teams that produced 20 or more wins a year ago (Miami, Ohio State, IUPUI, Western Kentucky).
A-Sun action will commence in the first week of December when FGCU travels north to Jacksonville for a pair of games. The Eagles will open conference play at North Florida (13-18, 8-12) on Dec. 2 before staying in the city to battle Jacksonville (20-13, 14-6) on Dec. 4. FGCU is 6-3 all-time against UNF, while Jacksonville is coming off a season in which it earned a share of the conference regular season title and berth into the NIT where it defeated PAC-10 member Arizona State.
After four straight non-conference bouts, the Eagles will resume conference play when they ring in the New Year with a pair of home games against two more teams that were part of the four-way tie for first place in the A-Sun last season. Belmont will be the first A-Sun foe to visit Alico Arena on Monday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. The Eagles picked up their first two wins over the Bruins (19-12, 14-6) last season, sweeping the season series. FGCU will then play host to A-Sun co-regular season and tournament champ Lipscomb on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Led by All-American candidate and reigning A-Sun Player of the Year Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb (17-13, 14-6) fell to Kentucky in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
A two-game road swing to East Tennessee State (Jan. 8) and USC Upstate (Jan. 10) follows the Eagles’ first two home conference games. ETSU (20-15, 13-7) finished one game out of the four-way tie for first place last season and was one of two teams (Jacksonville) in the conference to finish with 20 wins. The Eagles picked up a win in Spartanburg, S.C. last season, defeating USC Upstate, 86-82, and own a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.
FGCU returns to Alico Arena on Friday, Jan. 14 when it welcomes Kennesaw State (13-20, 7-13) to campus for a 7:05 p.m. tip. The Owls narrowly defeated the Eagles, 69-68, in last year’s meeting in Fort Myers. Just two days later on Sunday, Jan. 16, FGCU will play host to Mercer (16-17, 10-10) in a 2:05 p.m. matinee. The A-Sun Tournament’s No. 6 seed a year ago, the Bears advanced all the way to the title game in their home arena. Both games between the Eagles and Mercer last season were decided by six points or less with each team winning at home.
FGCU will then embark on its second four-game road swing of the season to close out the month of January, beginning with a trip to Buies Creek, N.C. to take on Campbell (Jan. 20). The Camels (19-11, 14-6) were the last member of the four-way tie for first place in the A-Sun a year ago. After four days off from game action, the Eagles finish their first go-around with their conference opponents on Jan. 25 at Stetson (7-22, 5-15). The two teams split the season series in 2009-10, with the home team prevailing in each contest.
The last two games of the four-game road trip also start the second meeting with each of the A-Sun programs. FGCU will head to Nashville, Tenn. for two games and its second meeting against Belmont (Jan. 28) and Lipscomb (Jan. 30).
The month of February will feature nine games, including six at Alico Arena for the Eagles. FGCU will host East Tennessee State on Friday, Feb. 4 at 7:05 p.m. before welcoming in USC Upstate on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 6) at 1:05 p.m.
FGCU will ride out A-Sun action on the road with a trip to Georgia to take on Kennesaw State (Feb. 10) and Mercer (Feb. 12). The team’s final road game of the year will come on Feb. 14 at aforementioned Western Kentucky. WKU has led the Sun Belt Conference in home attendance for six straight seasons, averaging over 4,000 fans per game at E.A. Diddle Arena.
With the road season in the books, the Eagles won’t leave the friendly confines of Alico Arena over the final two weeks of the season. FGCU will host Campbell on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 5:15 p.m. in its only conference game of the week.
FGCU’s final three games of the season will come over a six-day span in which it hosts Stetson (Feb. 21), Jacksonville (Feb. 24) and North Florida (Feb. 26). All three games will tip at 7:30 p.m., while the season finale against UNF will also be Senior Night at Alico Arena. FGCU will honor its senior class of Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan), Chad Lutkenhaus (Labelle, Fla./Labelle HS) and Charlie Lytle (Clearwater, Fla./Largo HS/Santa Fe College).
The 2010-11 version of the Eagles welcome back nine players, including their top two leading scorers from last season in redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (12.9 ppg) and Baker (11.4 ppg). The Blue and Green’s eight-player incoming class was tabbed the second-best recruiting class in the Atlantic Sun Conference by Hoop Scoop Online.
Single-game and season tickets are now on sale and can be purchased through the FGCU Ticket Office in Alico Arena either in person or by phone at (239) 590-7145. Tickets are also available on www.FGCUathletics.com/tickets.