(Athens, Ohio) - The Florida Gulf Coast season opener meant a lot of new faces making their debut in the Blue and Green. But something not foreign to Dunk City faithful is Joe Dooley's intense demeanor on the sidelines. With a plethora of fouls and a -14 rebounding margin, that certainly wasn’t absent on Saturday afternoon in Athens.
“I think Campbell and those guys did a good job, especially in the first half, of getting us in a little bit of foul trouble,” said head coach Joe Dooley. “…and I was really disappointed in our defense in a couple stretches.”
The foul trouble was extremely detrimental to the Eagles at the point guard position, where Reggie Reid and Zach Johnson were both making their collegiate debut. The two freshman combined for 7 points, 6 assists, and 3 turnovers.
“Coming out, I wasn’t really nervous. I just wanted to make sure I got my team in the offense and we got a good shot...” Johnson said. “This is basketball, something I’ve been doing for a long time so I try not to overthink it. It just another game. Unfortunately we came up short.”
The first pass of Johnson’s collegiate career was a post feed to someone who, 24 hours earlier, wasn’t eligible to play. Antravious Simmons, a transfer from VCU, received a call from the NCAA on Friday night, granting him immediate eligibility. He jumped on a flight to Ohio, made it to Athens by 9 p.m. and was inserted into the starting lineup.
“I was waiting for the call, expecting it. When I got it, it was a little shocking but when I heard the news I told myself to be ready,” Simmons said. “It felt great to be back out there. I’ve got some things to work on, but it felt really good to be back out there.”
“I was very excited. Me and Antravious played together for a couple years in AAU. We got a great relationship so just having someone like a brother out on the court with you is a good feeling,” Johnson said. "It was a huge attribute for the team and definitely helped us.”
Despite Simmons presence down low and Marc-Eddy Norelia’s endless energy, the Bobcats out rebounded the Eagles 45-31.
“The difference was really the backboard. I think they’re energy level on the backboard, rebounding and giving themselves second chance opportunities…” Dooley said.
Despite the uneven margin on the glass, Florida Gulf Coast was able to put together a comeback attempt that brought them to within six points with 1:41 reamining. A costly turnover and missed scoring chances in the final few minutes prevented the Eagles from completing the come from behind victory.