This year marked the sixth year in a row that either Florida Gulf Coast or North Florida reached the Atlantic Sun conference tournament title game, but the first time they’ve faced each other. It made for an intriguing matchup between two very different squads.
FGCU is a deep and athletic team, with eight players who play at least 25% of the team’s minutes. They may or may not go by Dunk City anymore, depending on who you ask, though they’ve actually made more dunks this season than in their 2013 “Dunk City” tournament run.
They rely on that inside game to offset a less than stellar outside game, but they’re still very efficient, with only two players under a 100 ORtg per KenPom. The short bench of North Florida led by Dallas Moore, the conference player of the year.
North Florida, meanwhile, is much more top heavy and lacking in depth, but also very good at keeping themselves in games via the long ball, as evidenced by their #BirdsOfTrey moniker. Dallas Moore is the team leader in just about every way, with a rotating cast providing secondary scoring.
North Florida played with fire early on. It got them a lead, but it also got Florida Gulf Coast into the bonus and the Ospreys in foul trouble with nearly six minutes still remaining in the first half. They were saving themselves with three-point shots (5-f0r-12 in the first half) and held onto a 39-33 halftime lead, but those fouls don’t go away at halftime.
A minute into the second half, coach Matthew Driscoll had already gone further into his bench than he would normally like. Both Wajid Aminu and Romel Banks had three fouls, and only two Osprey players had set foot on the court without committing a foul.
As the half wore on, everything flipped for North Florida – they did a much better job of staying out of foul trouble, in part because they stopped rotating as aggressively on defense, but they also went cold from three-point range, shooting only 1-for-12 from deep in the second half. Meanwhile, FGCU shot 5-of-7 from three-point range in the second half, including threes on three straight possessions late in the second half to finally put the game out of reach at 71-59 with four minutes to play.
Meanwhile, FGCU shot 5-of-7 from three-point range in the second half, including threes on three straight possessions late in the second half to finally put the game out of reach at 71-59 with four minutes to play.
The Ospreys played a balanced game overall, but too many turnovers led to too much time in transition for FGCU, where they could really let their athleticism shine. UNF was outscored by a whopping 44-22 in the second half en route to a 77-61 loss.
Florida Gulf Coast winds up repeating as conference champs and heads to the Big Dance behind a very balanced attack as the Eagles saw every starter score at least 10 points. In the end, North Florida couldn’t defend the Eagles aggressively enough down low to stop the lob for a full forty minutes, and then eventually FGCU got hot from long range and salted this one away.
Looks like Dunk City is doing just fine heading to the tournament, and maybe they’ll make some noise after all.