FORT MYERS, Fla. – Despite turning in a gusty effort fueled by 36 points from its bench, the FGCU men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a combined 38 points from Lipscomb seniors Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater in a 75-61 Atlantic Sun loss on Wednesday night at Alico Arena.
The loss slips the Eagles’ overall record to 3-10 on the year and 0-4 in the A-Sun, while Lipscomb ups its mark to 8-6 and 3-1 in league play. FGCU’s four A-Sun opponents so far this season have a combined record of 12-2 in conference action and occupy four of the top five spots in the standings.
“Whether its players, coaches, staff, no one likes to lose, but there are some positives we can take away from this game,” said head coach Dave Balza. “I thought we received a great effort from all the guys and the bench did a great job of stepping up. We’ve faced a tough opening stretch of games in league play, teams that are established programs, but we’ll continue to get better game-by-game.”
The game featured four of the A-Sun’s top five leading scorers and the top two scoring duos, as Hodzic and Slater hit their season combined average (38). Hodzic led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Slater had 17 points thanks to 10-of-14 shooting from the free throw line. Hodzic has reached double figures in 70 straight games, while Slater upped his streak to 32 contests.
On the flipside, FGCU’s inside-out duo of senior guard Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) and redshirt sophomore forward Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) were held to a season-low nine points. For the ninth time this season Banks gathered at least four offensive rebounds and in the process corralled his 150th career offensive carom in just his 42nd game.
Junior Marlon Rivera (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico/Sagemont HS/Santa Fe CC) filled up the stat sheet with team-highs of 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Junior Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies/Calvary Christian/Ole Miss) had his best game as an Eagle against the A-Sun’s top big man, finishing with a season-high 10 points. Freshman Christophe Varidel (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) also provided a spark off the bench with 12 points on four three-pointers.
For the game, FGCU shot 43 percent (24-56) from the field, while Lipscomb finished at a 46 percent clip (23-50). The Bisons owned the battle on the boards by a 42-29 margin, but were out-scored 30-24 in the paint by the Eagles and held just a one-point edge in second chance points (15-14).
Lipscomb opened the game on a 10-0 run over the first three minutes fueled by a pair of three-pointers and three turnovers by FGCU in its first five possessions.
A layup by Cantinol broke the Bisons’ run and started a 13-4 scoring spurt for the Eagles that drew the home team within one, 14-13, with 12:47 on the clock. Cantinol supplied six points during the run, matching his season-high over the three-minute span, while Rivera scored five points.
As quickly as FGCU climbed back into the game, Lipscomb took back the momentum with a big 12-0 run that lasted five minutes and ended with the Bisons leading 28-14 with 4:43 on the clock. FGCU committed several of its 10 first half fouls to during the run, allowing Lipscomb to knock down 5-of-6 from the line.
Varidel broke the Blue and Green’s six-minute and 56-second scoring drought with a deep three-pointer from the left wing to bring the Eagles within 28-17. Varidel’s three not only was FGCU’s first points in 13 possessions, but it also sparked a solid finish to the half for the Eagles in which they out-scored the Bisons 12-5 over the final 4:24.
FGCU’s strong finish to the frame made it a 33-26 score at the half in favor of Lipscomb. Led by eight points from Cantinol, the FGCU bench out-scored its counterparts 18-9 in the opening 20 minutes.
After Lipscomb stretched its lead back to double figures (12), 48-36, by the first media timeout of the second half, Varidel drilled a trio of three-pointers in four possessions as a quick 11-2 run by the Eagles cut the deficit to three, 50-47, with 14:27 to play.
The two teams traded baskets for a majority of the middle half of the second frame until Lipscomb turned a 61-57 lead with 4:48 to play into a 14-point edge, 71-57, with just under a minute to play. After climbing all the way back to make it a one-possession game, FGCU over six minutes without a point for the second time in the game.
FGCU will hit the road for its next two A-Sun contests, beginning with a trip to Johnson City, Tenn. to square off against ETSU (8-7, 3-1) on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m.