Courtesy of FGCUAthletics.com
NORMAL, ILL.- The FGCU Eagles (0-1) fell 74-66 in their 2018-19 opener on Tuesday, turning the ball over 20 times for 22 Illinois State (1-0) points on the night.
“I thought we hit them good at first” Michael Fly said after sitting in the head coaches’ chair for the first time in his career. “But after they hit us back, we staggered a little bit instead of fighting right back. I thought we took a few quick shots, for a minute or two, we stopped moving the ball and went 1-on-1 a little bit too much. A lot of these guys haven’t played together before tonight. Our goal is to continue to get better and be at our best when it matters the most.
The aptly named ‘Dunk City’ started their 2018-19 season in just that way as Ricky Doyle (Cape Coral, FL/Michigan/Bishop Verot HS) got loose underneath and finished with a two handed slam to give the Eagles a quick lead to begin the game.
FGCU got defensive stops on each of their first four possessions on that end of the court and used those to jump out in front of the Redbirds 6-0.
Illinois State rebounded to tie the score back up at 13 out of the under 12 media timeout, which is when Troy Baxter Jr. (Tallahassee, FL/UNLV/Oldsmar Christian HS) stepped up for FGCU. Baxter started with a monster one handed slam on a backdoor cut and answered that with a three from the corner to make it 18-13 Eagles.
A 7-0 Illinois State run gave the Redbirds their first lead of the night and they never loosened their grip on it the rest of the night.
With 4:10 left in the first half, Illinois State pushed their lead to eight and when up by as many as 11 late in the half before settling for a 47-38 lead at the break.
The Eagles shot 46% from the field in the half and 42% from the three point line, but were hurt by 13 first half turnovers that turned into 19 Redbird points.
The two teams traded baskets early in the second half as Illinois State remained comfortably in front by a dozen six minutes in.
Baxter came up with another highlight reel play on a putback dunk to stop the Redbird momentum and it led the Eagles on an 8-0 run to cut the Illinois State lead to just four at 52-48 with 9:55 left.
The Eagles got it to a one possession game twice last in the half, but couldn’t break past that barrier.
A late three from Schadrac Casimir (Stamford, Conn./Iona/Trinity Catholic), his sixth of the game, gave FGCU a final breath, but could never get any closer as they fell at the end of the night 74-66.
Both teams finished the night shooting 44% overall from the field. Casimir lead FGCU with 18 points and six threes in the win. The Eagles had 20 turnovers in the loss and gave up 17 second chance points.
The Eagles will have a quick turnaround as they return home Wednesday before taking on Southeastern University Thursday in their home opener in Alico Arena. That game is set for a 7 PM tip. The Eagles will have a quick turnaround as after returning home from Normal on Wednesday afternoon, they will play Southeastern just about 24 hours later in Alico Arena in their 2018-19 home opener.