Previewing Florida Gulf Coast
This story originally published on TheDevilsDen.com
Bernard Thompson
Bernard Thompson
TDD Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2012


Riding high after defeating the defending national champions in Atlanta, Duke now returns home to work out some kinks in the lineup as the Blue Devils prepare for their Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas. Hoping to pull the upset are the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.

Duke defeated No. 3 Kentucky last week by a 75-68 margin behind a huge game from senior Seth Curry, and the usual production from Mason Plumlee. Throughout the first half against the Wildcats, the Duke seniors answered every run and helped build a working margin shortly after halftime. On Sunday the opponent is not nearly as talented, but the Eagles have shown flashes of being dangerous at times so far in 2012-2013.

Florida Gulf Coast returns five starters from a year ago, and the team is looking to continue to move up the rankings in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The team finished just 15-17 a season ago, but with the experienced rotation returning and the notable improvements from 2011 to 2012, the media picked the Eagles to finish third this year.

And, if the media expectations weren't enough, Florida Gulf Coast has already sent a shockwave through the ACC this year with a 12 point win over Miami in just their second game of the season. The Eagles not only beat the Hurricanes, they controlled the game from the start, leading by seven at halftime and holding Miami to just 29 percent shooting from the floor. FGCU then pounded Miami in the paint to the tune of a 40-14 advantage.

On the opposite end of the floor, Duke will look to answer a number of questions as the team prepares to head to preseason tournament at Atlantis next week. The Blue Devils are still looking to get quality production from Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy at the small forward positions, while also hoping for red shirt freshman Marshall Plumlee to get some action after being sidelined with a foot injury for the last six weeks.

Quotable:

"I feel like we are more of a team this season. A year ago we were all knew to everything, but now we're all experienced." - PG Brett Comer

"Eric McKnight really gives us an inside presence with his athleticism." - Andy Enfield on his sophomore transfer forward

"We were a young team last year and are still fairly young, but since our freshmen and sophomores played so many minutes last year, they're really not young players" - Andy Enfield on his team's experience level.

"We're good at pushing the basketball in the full court. We're a good shooting team from the perimeter. We have enough athleticism and size to be a good defensive team if our players continue to buy into our team defense." - Andy Enfield

PREGAME NOTES

New leadership for Eagles: The Eagles have been in the Division I ranks for 10 years now, and a season ago the program hired its second coach in that time when Andy Enfield took over. Enfield spent five previous years as an assistant at Florida State. Prior to his stint with the Seminoles, Enfield coached with the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. During his collegiate playing career at Johns Hopkins University, Enfield set the all-time NCAA career free-throw percentage record with a mark of 92.5 percent (431-466).

Instant returns: The Eagles improved quickly under Enfield's leadership, winning a program record 15 games a season ago and improving in many statistical categories. FGCU finished 39th in the nation in three-pointers per game (7.8) and 49th in three- point field goal percentage (37.4), both of which were program Division I records. With Enfield’s up-tempo style of offense, the Eagles averaged 72.1 points per game, a 6.4 point improvement from the previous season and also a program D-1 record. It all culminated in a post season run to the conference finals in the school's first appearance in the post-season.

Several players blossomed a season ago including junior Sherwood Brown who earned second team all-conference honors. Brown was one of just two players in the A-Sun to rank in the top 10 in scoring at rebound, nearly doubling both averages from the previous year. Two members of Enfield’s first recruiting class at FGCU also landed on the A-Sun All-Freshmen team in guards Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson. Comer was the conference leader in assists.

Spot of worry: Heading into Durham as a non-conference opponent is never easy. Coming to Cameron as an unranked opponent is even tougher as Duke has won 89 consecutive non-conference home games against unranked opponents. If the Eagles are to break that 12 year streak, they will have to take care of the basketball. Something they have not done through three early games. For the season the Eagles are turning the ball over at a rate of 20.3 miscues per game. As a team FGCU sports a 1 to 1.5 assist to turnover ratio. Against a Duke team that has shown marked improvement from a season ago, anything approaching 20 turnovers will likely reduce the chances of springing the upset to zero.

Could get worse: Sophomore Brett Comer was injured in the Eagles last game against Ave Maria and did not return. Comer played just nine minutes, but recorded two assists in that time. After leading the Atlantic Sun in assists a season ago, Comer was averaging 6.5 assists per game through the first two contests. Not only was he setting up his teammates, the sophomore was taking care of the basketball at a reasonably good rate, sporting a 1.7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.

Coach Enfield provided a brief update on Comer prior to making the trip to Durham:

"Brett right now is day-to-day," Enfield said. "We’re hoping its nothing serious. He got banged up and hopefully he’ll be ready for Sunday."

Deep bench: While Enfield won't have the same level of talent as his opponent during most of his out of conference schedule, he will have a deep bench to throw at them. Through three games the Eagles boast 12 players averaging more than 10.5 minutes per game. Three of those players, however, got their first look at college basketball during the blow out of Ave Maria. In the previous two games the team used a rotation of eight players including two seniors, two juniors, a redshirt sophomore, and three true sophomores.

The depth of the bench allows for scoring to be spread out amongst the rotation, but when the Eagles need a basket they put the ball in Comer's hands and hope he'll find either Sherwood Brown or Bernard Thompson. Thompson leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game, while Brown adds 14.3 per contest. Early on, both Brown and Thompson have struggled with turnovers, combining for 16 in three games. Thompson is the team's best on the ball defender and has recorded eight steals while Brown will remind Duke fans of former Blue Devil DeMarcus Nelson with the way he attacks the glass from the wing (averaging 5.0 rebounds per game).

Inside the Eagles will turn to Iowa State transfer Eric McKnight, a 6-foot-9, 210 pound forward who played his high school ball in Raleigh. McKnight leads the team in rebounds (6.3 per game) and blocks (2.3 per game).

NUMBERS GAME
courtesy of Duke Sports Information

  • Duke, ranked No. 9 as of Nov. 11, has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 95 consecutive weeks. The last time Duke was not ranked in the top 10 was Nov. 19, 2007.
  • Seniors Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly have accounted for 62.4 percent of Duke’s offensive output through two games. The trio is averaging 46.5 points per game this season.
  • Mason Plumlee has shot 50.0 percent or better from the field in each of the past eight games dating back to last season. Plumlee is 42-of-61 (.689) from the field, including 15-of-20 (.750) in the last two games, during that stretch.
  • Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon has led the Blue Devils in assists in both games this season and is averaging 4.5 assists per game with a 9.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • The point guard tandem of Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook is averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. The duo is also shooting 50.0 percent from the field, including 6-of-13 from behind arc.
  • Duke is 464-73 vs. non-conference opponents under Mike Krzyzewski, including a 240-11 mark in home games.

Projected Starters:
25 Sherwood Brown (6-4, 200, Sr.) - 14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
20 Chase Fieler (6-8, 205, Jr.) - 6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
12 Eric McKnight (6-9, 210, R-So.) - 8.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg
02 Bernard Thompson (6-3, 166, So.) - 15.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.7 spg
00 Brett Comer (6-3, 195, So.) - 4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.3 apg

Top Reserves
05 Christophe Varidel (6-2, 170, Jr.) - 5.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
35 DaJuan Graf (6-0, 170, Fr.) - 4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
23 Eddie Murray (6-8, 205, R-Sr.) - 4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
15 Filip Cvjeticanin (6-9, 212, So.) - 4.0 ppg


Related Stories
Duke blows by Florida Gulf Coast, 88-67
 -by TheDevilsDen.com  Nov 18, 2012
GALLERY: Duke v. Florida Gulf Coast
 -by TheDevilsDen.com  Nov 19, 2012
Memorable Kentucky Player Quotes
 -by ScoutCBK.com  Nov 14, 2012

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