GAME CAPSULE: #7 FAU @ FGCU - December 30th, 2023
What: #7 FAU (10-2) vs FGCU (5-9)
When: Sat. Dec. 30th, @ 7:00 PM
Where: Alico Arena
Series: Owls lead 4-3 all-time against the Eagles. FAU won 85-53 in last season's matchup.
Radio: FoxSports 640
Live Stats: Here
Line: FAU -15.5
FAU at a Glance
Offense - 85 PPG, 51% FG, 38% 3PT
Defense - 70 PPGA, 42% FGA, 33% 3PTA
Rebounding - 38 RPG Owls, 34 RPG Opponents
It is understandable for people to focus on Johnell Davis' masterclass performance of 35 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals on 15-27 shooting from the field to help FAU pull off the historic victory over 4th-ranked Arizona last Saturday. However, it would be a disservice to not discuss how impactful Jalen Gaffney (pictured via FAU Athletics) was with his play down the stretch.
Prior to the matchup with the Wildcats, Gaffney was averaging 6.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on excellent shooting splits of 50% from the field and 55.6% from downtown throughout 11 games which includes seven starts. He went off against Arizona's defense by scoring a season-high 20 points on 7-13 shooting that includes three triples, constantly making the right play to keep the Owls within reach until the final buzzer to confirm themselves as the victors.
His playmaking has provided an astounding presence in the Owls' offense, leading the team with 45 assists. He has done so well taking care of the ball that his assist-to-turnover ratio (45:15) ranks 38th in the country.
Now back to Davis. His 35 points were the most by an Owl this season and tied for fifth most in a game in FAU history. His 15 field goals made were the second most in a game by an Owl. He now tops the unit in scoring with 16.3 points per game. Not only did he win AAC Player of the Week, he also won the AP's National Player of the Week and was named on the Early-Season Third Team All-American by Jon Rothstein, indicating that his growth this season hasn't gone unnoticed.
Keep an eye on Alijah Martin to stand out in this matchup. He may have scored 13 points, but his three-pointer during the first overtime period was crucial to the Owls staying in the game to take down Arizona. It also would be a perfect time for him to get his overall shooting percentage back up to 40% once the matchup is said and done.
Once non-conference play is over, FAU will gear up for their AAC opener by hosting East Carolina on January 2nd at 7:00 PM. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN2.
FGCU Team Site: Here
FGCU at a Glance
Offense - 68 PPG, 43% FG, 33% 3PT
Defense - 72 PPGA, 44% FGA, 37% 3PTA
Rebounding - 35 RPG, 34 RPG Opponents
Florida Gulf Coast is coming off of back-to-back wins, despite having injuries to their starting unit.
Isaiah Thompson and Chase Johnston, who are combined for 23.7 points per game, are both questionable for Saturday's contest as their statuses will be something to keep track of heading into this weekend. Thompson leads the team in scoring with 14 per contest despite being limited to seven games so far this season.
The Eagles have had a hard time dealing with Big Ten opponents Indiana and Minnesota, the ACC's Pittsburgh, and the Big 12's Cincinnati, going winless in four contests while getting outscored 331-256. Their biggest wins were against FIU and Georgia Southern so far, demonstrating that their talent level, particularly against high-level competition, is still a work in progress.
If Thompson and Johnston are unable to go, FGCU will have to keep looking for other players to step up in an offense that ranks among the 50 worst in the country. One of them would be forward Keeshawn Kellman, who has shown brilliant accuracy inside the arc by making his shots at a 70.3% clip, good for third in the nation behind FAU's Vladislav Goldin and Virginia Tech's Lynn Kidd. With four double-doubles to his name, he will certainly be one for the Owls to watch out for.
Another area the Eagles do quite well in is blocking shots. They have 51 blocks to their opponents' 34, with Kellman being at the forefront with 19 so far this year. Four others have five or more rejections as well, so FAU has to be cautious of their shot selection against FGCU's defense.
With this being their last non-conference game, the Eagles will begin conference play in the Atlantic Sun by facing Jacksonville on January 4th at 7:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.