FORT MYERS, Fla. – Freshman Christophe Varidel’s (Versoix, Switzerland/Worcester Academy) game-tying jumper from the right baseline caromed off the back of the rim as time expired as the FGCU men’s basketball team’s three-game win streak came to an end on Saturday night at Alico Arena in the form a 53-51 Atlantic Sun loss to UNF.
Varidel hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds of Thursday’s win over third place Jacksonville, but couldn’t repeat the last minute magic. With the loss, the Eagles fall to 9-20 on the season, including 6-13 in the A-Sun. UNF, on the other hand, will enter the A-Sun Tournament as the No. 6 seed after going 10-10 in league play.
Despite playing a foul-plagued 16 minutes, junior Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies/Calvary Christian/Ole Miss)
had his way in the paint leading the Eagles with 12 points on 6-of-8 from the field. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS)
finished in double figures for the 26th time this season with 11 points, while classmate Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS)
also had 11 points to go along with his career-high nine rebounds.
Unlike their 81-74 meeting earlier this season, neither team could find their rhythm on the offensive end. FGCU finished at a 31 percent (17-55) clip from the field, while UNF managed to get their percentage up to 39.6 (19-48) after an 8-of-26 first half.
One player who did find his rhythm was UNF’s Parker Smith, who finished with a game-high 19 points on 4-of-10 from long range. Smith had 15 of the Ospreys’ first 33 points. Jimmy Williams finished with a game-high 11 rebounds, all defensive, for UNF.
Behind the inside play of Cantinol and Banks, FGCU jumped out to an 11-4 lead by the 11:22 mark. Cantinol accounted for the team’s first four points, as the Eagles limited the Ospreys to a pair of field goals over their first 16 possessions.
Smith got UNF out of its scoring slump with back-to-back three-pointers with the last coming with 8:45 on the clock and the Eagles narrowly leading 11-10.
The FGCU lead tip-toed around two-possessions over the next four minutes (17-13) until the Ospreys used a 7-0 run to take a 20-17 lead of their own with 2:44 left.
The Eagles snapped out of their offensive slumber and scored the game’s next six points and nine of the final 11 to take a 26-22 lead at the half. For the seventh time this season and the third game in a row, FGCU held an A-Sun opponent under 30 points in the first half.
FGCU held onto the lead over the opening 10 minutes of the final frame before UNF built a five-point lead, 43-38, with 7:02 on the clock.
A pair of free throws from Brown with 1:33 on the clock gave the lead back to FGCU, at 51-50. UNF responded right away with a bucket on its next trip down the floor to regain the edge, at 52-51 with 1:12 on the clock. Both teams came up empty handed on their next trip down the floor before Parker Smith converted the front end of two free throws to push the UNF lead to 53-51 with 15 seconds left.
FGCU corralled the rebound on Parker’s miss and got across midcourt to call a timeout with 6.7 left. The in-bound pass found Brown whose runner got blocked out of bounds with 1.1 seconds left. Inbounding from the side again, FGCU found Varidel along the right wing and his one dribble pull up from the baseline drifted a little long.
FGCU will closeout its season on Monday night with its third game in six days when it heads to Spartanburg, S.C. for the second time this year. The originally scheduled Jan. 10 meeting between the two schools was postponed due to snow. Tip time is slated for 7:30 p.m.