Despite being short-handed, FGCU battled back against North Florida on Saturday night to draw within two points, before eventually falling 82-76 to the Ospreys.
The Eagles we're all brusied up heading into their big Atlantic Sun road test in Jacksonville. Demetris Morant was ruled out for his sixth game in-a-row and freshman Rayjon Tucker's status was up in the air until gametime. The Charlotte product ended up playing limited minutes while battling a hip flexor.
Donning brand new anthracite uniforms, Florida Gulf Coast came out of the gate with lots of energy and opened up a quick 6-2 lead. It was an encouraging sign for a team coming off two double-digit losses. They made it a priority to get the ball into the post and attack the basket. Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell were aggressive heading towards the hoop while Marc-Eddy Norelia used his soft touch to finish in the paint.
The overall poise and execution from FGCU was impressive. They committed just 10 turnovers, dominated the rebounding margin 41-30, and outscored North Florida in the paint 56-24.
However, the Ospreys, whose rotation is just seven deep, know their game and stick to it. It was only a matter of time before the nation's leading three point shooting team (12.6 3-PT FGs per game) caught fire. With 14:32 remaining in the second half, Beau Beech nailed a triple and North Florida drained four more over the next four minutes to pull way from FGCU.
Sparked by a steal and three-point play from Zach Johnson, the gritty Eagles battled back and cut the lead to just 74-72 with 2:13 remaining. But a tip-in from UNF's Demarcus Daniels gave the Ospreys a five-point lead and put the game out of reach.
Florida Gulf Coast (13-10, 4-3) dropped its third straight Atlantic Sun game and will look to get back on track against Jacksonville on Monday night. The Eagles won't have to wait long to draw even in the season series against North Florida either; the two teams battle in Fort Myers on Saturday.