GRAMBLING, La. – Senior Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) sank seven free throws in the final minute, while junior Tim Snyder (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Hillsborough CC) scored a season-high 21 points to help the FGCU men’s basketball team hold on for a 74-70 win at Grambling State Saturday evening at Hobdy Arena.
The win is the second in a row for FGCU, as it moves to 2-1 on the season. Playing in its only home game in the first two months of the season, Grambling State drops to 0-4.
“I’m really happy with the way we came out in the second half to take the win after a disappointing first half,” said head coach Dave Balza. “I thought our older guys showed a lot of leadership in getting us a double figure lead and then down the stretch to preserve the win. All together we have a lot to work on, but a road win is always satisfying.”
The two-time defending Atlantic Sun free throw percentage leader, Baker sank 14-of-16 from the charity stripe on the night en route to his second straight 20-point game and the 11th of his career. Baker did a majority of his damage in the final 20 minutes, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points while also adding eight rebounds.
It was a good night for the FGCU post players, as well, led by Snyder’s 21 points that included 13 in the final frame. Snyder had his battles at the free throw line (5-14), but went 8-of-12 from the field, scoring in a variety of ways.
Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) celebrated his 21st birthday with his sixth career double-double. Banks finished with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, highlighted by five on the offensive glass, despite battling foul trouble.
Banks 11th career five-plus offensive rebound game spearheaded a night in which the Eagles grabbed 17 offensive boards. The 17 offensive caroms and a 56 percent shooting clip (14-25) in the second half helped FGCU recover from a 26-of-46 effort at the free throw line and 21 turnovers.
Justin Patton came off the bench to add 17 points and eight rebounds to lead three players in double figures for Grambling State. The Tigers shot 39 percent (22-56) from the field and were able to overcome 20 turnovers by drilling 11 three-pointers, including four from Patton.
One game after FGCU scored 53 points in the second half against Southeast Missouri State, the opening 20 minutes featured a combined 25 turnovers and 20 fouls, as neither team could find any kind of rhythm on the offensive end evident by their 16-of-56 shooting performance from the field.
FGCU was able to score the final six points of the half with the final bucket by Baker coming just before the buzzer sounded to give the visitors their first halftime lead of the young season, at 25-21. Baker, Banks and Snyder all finished the first frame with eight points, while Banks also added seven boards.
The lead changed hands a few times over the first six minutes of the second half before junior Marlon Rivera’s (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) old-fashioned three-point play sparked an 8-2 run that gave FGCU its first real breathing room at 42-36 with 12:30 play.
Grambling quickly cut into the Eagle lead down to two, 42-40, but seven straight points in 58 seconds pumped the Blue and Green’s lead back up to nine, 49-40, at the 10:31 mark.
The FGCU lead, again, shrunk down to two, 53-51, minutes later, but the visitors responded again. Five straight points from Snyder and Baker’s one three-pointer of the game fueled an 11-2 spurt that gave the Eagles their largest lead of the contest, 64-53, with 3:59 left.
Grambling cut it to a one-possession game four times over the final two minutes, but Baker held off the late Tiger comeback effort by sinking 7-of-8 from the free throw line to seal the four-point victory.
FGCU will close out its road swing and three-game set in the Razorback Showcase when it heads to Fayetteville, Ark. on Monday night to take on the host Razorbacks. The Eagles’ last two games have been a part of the Showcase in which Arkansas put together, giving each team at least one home game. Gametime on Monday night at Bud Walton Arena is slated for 8 p.m. ET.