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Baker, Banks Lead FGCU Past N.C. Central, 87-68
Inside-out duo combines for 46 points in 19-point win
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Senior guard Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) scored a game-high 25 points and redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santluces HS) provided the inside scoring punch with 21 points to lead the FGCU men’s basketball team to a convincing 87-68 win over N.C. Central on Tuesday night at Alico Arena.
It marked the third time this season that a pair of Eagles has reached the 20-point plateau in the same game and the third time Baker and Banks have combined to score over 40 points. The duo combined for 46 points on 19-of-28 from the field and 11 rebounds.
The win snaps a six-game losing streak for the Eagles, as they improve to 3-7 on the season heading into a brief Christmas break. FGCU, who is 7-2 over its last nine non-conference home games dating back to 2008, will return to Alico Arena on Monday, Dec. 27 to host IUPUI at 7:05 P.M.
N.C. Central slips to 4-6 with their third straight loss.
“I’m really pleased with the way we played tonight, especially after getting back from a disappointing road trip,” said head coach Dave Balza. “When Reed (Baker) and Anthony (Banks) play like that together, we’re a tough team to beat. It felt great to get in front of our home crowd and get a much-needed win.”
FGCU continued to improve on its outside shooting, knocking down a season-high 11 three-pointers (11-21) for game. Baker led that charge, hitting 5-of-8 from long range, while sophomore Hunter Miller (Nashville, Tenn./Christ Presbyterian Academy) hit all three of his attempts en route to a career-high 11 points. After making just 29 three-pointers over the first seven games this season, the Eagles have now made 29 over their last three contests.
Junior point guard Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) turned in another solid floor game with game-highs of 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Rivera’s 12 assists are the second-best total since the program joined Division I in 2007 and helped the Eagles finish with a season-best 23 helpers.
FGCU also owned a healthy 38-23 edge on the glass which led to a 15-5 advantage in second chance points. For the game, the Eagles shot a season-best 57 percent (34-60) from the field, including a scorching 60 percent (18-30) in the second half.
Despite the 87-point night, the Eagles looked like a team that hadn’t played a home game in 24 days over the opening 11 minutes, as the contest featured five lead changes with NCCU holding a slim 17-16 lead at the 7:48 mark.
The lead changes came to a halt with 6:38 left in the half when Baker nailed the first of his three trifectas in the period to ignite a 10-2 run that ended with FGCU leading 26-19 with 5:16 to play. In the quick one-minute and 22-second span, the Eagles scored on all four possessions, sinking 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, including a pair by Miller.
N.C. Central was able to break the FGCU run with five straight points until Baker struck again with back-to-back three-pointers to push the lead back up to eight, 32-24 with 3:31 showing on the clock.
Baker’s individual scoring run eventually led to a 39-28 FGCU lead at the half after freshman Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) joined the three-point shooting barrage with 47 seconds remaining to help give the Eagles their second straight halftime advantage. FGCU finished the opening 20 minutes by shooting 53 percent (16-30) from the field and an impressive 7-of-11 from downtown.
Momentum from the end of the half carried over into the start of the final frame, as Baker picked up where he left off with another three-pointer in the team’s opening possession of the half. The Eagles quickly added onto their first double-digit halftime lead of the season by opening the final 20 minutes on a 9-2 run that pushed the lead to 18, 48-30, with 17:04 and essentially putting the game out of reach.
FGCU held on to its double figure lead for the remainder of the half and took its largest lead, 75-49 (26), with just over six minutes remaining. The Eagles held the lead for the final 26:38 of the contest.
N.C. Central was led by the backcourt duo of junior Landon Clement and senior C.J. Wilkerson. Clement led the way for the Eagles with 16 points, while Wilkerson was the only other double figure scorer with 15. As a team, UNCC shot 46 percent (25-55) from the floor, but had just five offensive rebounds.
Freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W.Va./Parkersburg South) reached double figures for the third time this season with 11 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
FGCU now leads all-time series against UNCC at 3-0 … the Eagles have collected double figure offensive rebounds in 9 of 10 games this season … FGCU is 2-1 at Alico Arena this season, averaging 83.7 points and shooting 52 percent (93-178) … Anthony Banks has reached double figures six straight games, highlighted by a trio of 20-point outings … Banks’ five offensive rebounds gives him 41 on the season … Banks has now grabbed five or more offensive rebounds in seven games this season … Reed Baker’s 25 points move him over 900 points for his career and just 81 away from 1,000 … Baker has a team-best four 20-point games and 13 for his career … Marlon Rivera has led the team in assists eight times this season and has 55 on the year … Rivera has 17 steals over the last five games … A-Sun-best four double-doubles … 10 or more offensive rebounds in eight of nine games.