Eagles Extinguish the Fire in Home Opening Victory

Eagles Extinguish the Fire in Home Opening Victory

FORT MYERS, FLA.- The FGCU Eagles (1-1) used a quick start and a strong finish to the first half to run away with an 81-54 win over the visiting Southeastern Fire (0-0) Thursday night in their home opener in front of nearly 4,000 fans in Alico Arena.  

"We did some positive things tonight, our older guys really stepped up" head coach Michael Fly said. "We had a couple of possessions tonight and Tuesday night that really looked how our offense is supposed to. The more comfortable we get playing with each other, I think you are going to see even more of that."

The Eagles started off on fire against Southeastern, getting buckets from four different players to run out to an 11-0 lead just 3:08 into the contest. 

After Southeastern got on the board, FGCU quickly responded as Dinero Mercurius (Orlando, Fla./Dayton State/UTRGV/USF/Faith Baptist Christian) found Brady Ernst (Clinton, Iowa/Indian Hills/Iowa State/Clinton HS) for an alley-oop slam to put the Eagles up 13-3. 

The Green and Blue went cold from there though as Southeastern sliced the Eagle lead to just four as FGCU went on a three minute scoreless drought. 

A pair of free throws kept the Eagles afloat, but they went more than eight minutes without a field goal before Haanif Cheatham (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Marquette/Pembroke Pines HS) knifed through the lane and scored to put them up 18-15 with 7:51 remaining in the first half. 

However, a three point play for the Fire tied the game at 18 moments later and Southeastern took a 20-18 lead at the 6:17 mark as the Eagles continued to regain their footing. 

As they did in their opener Tuesday night, the Eagles looked to veteran guard Schadrac Casimir (Samford, Conn./Iona/Trinity Catholic) when they were in need of a big bucket and the fifth year senior answered the call, banging a three from the corner to set FGCU off on a 17-0 run that also culminated with a Casimir hoop to give the Green and Blue a 35-20 lead. 

Southeastern scored twice before the half, but the Eagles took a comfortable 35-24 lead into the locker rooms at the break. 

As indicated by the score, neither team shined offensively in the first 20 minutes of action.  FGCU shot just 35% from the field and 29% from three while Southeastern hit on 38% overall and missed all six three pointers they attempted.  Casimir and Mercurius each had nine to lead the way for the Eagles in the first half while Ernst pitched in six and had a team best four rebounds. 

The Eagles quickly scored the first four out of the half as Cheatham again found his way through the defense and to the tin for two and Troy Baxter Jr(Tallahassee, Fla./UNLV/Oldsmar Christian) did the same to put FGCU up 39-24. 

FGCU took their first 20 point lead of the night with 14:29 to go as freshman Zach Scott (Miramar, Fla/Westminster Academy) got to the line and knocked down a freebie and the Eagles pushed that to 25 with under seven minutes remaining as Baxter cashed in a pair from the stripe. 

The Green and Blue took their biggest lead of the night at 31 on a Scott three with 3:51 to go and put things in cruise control to the finish line in an 81-54 win. 

After a statistically slow first half, the Eagles turned things on in the second, shooting 57% from the field and 46% from three to finish the game at 45% overall and 36% from beyond the arc.  FGCU held Southeastern to just 35% shooting on the night and just 1 of 10 from deep. 

Individually Casimir led the Eagles in scoring for the second straight game with 16 while Baxter had a dozen and Cheatham and Ernst each had 10.  Ernst led FGCU with seven rebounds on the night while Decardo Day (Jackson, Miss./Iowa Western/Callaway HS) did a little bit of everything with five points, five rebounds, a team best five assists, and four steals. 

The Eagles pick up win number one of the Fly era as they even up their 2018-19 mark to 1-1.  Southeastern counted the contest as an exhibition and therefore did not count the game towards their overall record. 

It will be another quick turnaround for the Eagles as they hit the hardwood again in just three days when they make the journey to East Lansing, Michigan to battle #10 Michigan State on Sunday night in a 6 PM tip.  The Spartans are coming off of a five point loss on opening night to #1 Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic. 

"It doesn't matter who we are playing, whether it is Southeastern or Michigan State, we want to play the same way from an intensity standpoint, we play for the name on the front of our jerseys, not what is on theirs" Fly said when asked about Sunday's matchup with the Spartans. 

The Eagles will be looking for a little bit of revenge Sunday after the two teams last matchup ended in a questionable timing play at the end of regulation which allowed the Spartans to hang on for a 78-77 win in 2016.