PREVIEW: Florida Gulf Coast at Northern Kentucky


Kody Kahle

NKU guard Chad Jackson scores game high 26 points in NKU’s loss to North Florida. North Florida defeated NKU 74-66 on Jan. 22, 2015 in The Bank of Kentucky Center.

On Monday, SGA President John Jose declared this week to be #FGCUHateWeek in advance of Thursday’s men’s basketball game against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles of Fort Meyers, Florida.

The Atlantic Sun foe was once known as “Dunk City” in their Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament two years ago, advancing to the Sweet 16. The Eagles are 5-0 against the Norse, but Jose and the rest of Norse Nation hope this is the game to end that streak.


Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 @ 7:00 p.m. at The Bank of Kentucky Center

Follow @northernermedia on Twitter for live updates from the game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: This 2014-15 edition of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles is different from the Eagles of two years ago. Some of the star players from the Cinderella team are gone, but two of their top scorers remain from that team. The Eagles’ leading scorer is senior guard Bernard Thompson, who averages 14.2 points per game, according to Thompson also averages a dangerous 40.7 percent from beyond the three-point line and 41.1 percent field goal percentage. Look for him to challenge Norse guard Tayler Persons and shoot from beyond the arc and in the paint.

Senior guard Brett Comer, also a player remaining from the Sweet 16 team, averages a little over 12 points per game, and dumped 24 points against the Norse in their last meeting. He will challenge the Norse defense in order to get inside the paint. Jalen Billups will have to be aware of where Comer is and keep him from scoring.

Speaking of Billups, the Eagles are in for a ride with Billups in the paint. He has been on a roll of late, averaging 11 points per game. After struggling to reach double figures in points in the beginning of the season, Billups has scored 10 or more points in eight straight games, including a season-high 19 points against Stetson on Jan. 29. If the Norse find a way to get the ball to Billups down in the post, the Norse and Billups are unstoppable.

The Norse’s leading scorer this season continues to be freshman guard Tayler Persons, who averages a little over 12 points per game. After being consistent in the beginning of the season, Persons has had his good games, and games where he struggles. With that being said, in the last meeting against Florida Gulf Coast, Persons dropped 20 points against the Eagles in the loss. If Persons can repeat that performance while stepping up his defense, the Norse can pull out with a win.

NKU’S KEYS TO VICTORY: NKU must step up its defense against a strong shooting team in Florida Gulf Coast. When at all possible, keep them out of the paint and contain Thompson and Comer. It’s a high order to follow, but if the Norse want to win, they have to face one of the best shooting guards in the country in Thompson. Put a hand in his face and keep him from taking wide-open shots.

The Norse cannot get into foul trouble early. In the recent win against Lipscomb, Billups got into foul trouble early and later fouled-out. By the end of the game, five players had four fouls or more for the Norse. You need Billups in for the entire game and producing at a high rate, while also keeping Florida Gulf Coast off the free throw line.

SERIES HISTORY: Florida Gulf Coast and NKU have met five times, with the Eagles winning all five. In their most recent meeting, Comer scored 24 points for the Eagles, leading them to a 74-64 win over the Norse at Alico Arena in Fort Meyers. The last time the teams faced each other at The Bank of Kentucky Center, Chase Fieler of FGCU scored 22 in his final regular season game and the Eagles clinched the top seed in the conference tournament. Billups scored a career-high 20 points and Tyler White scored 18 for the Norse.

#HateWeek: This is not the first week declared at NKU. In the 2011-12 basketball season, NKU and Bellarmine students exchanged words in the week leading up to the basketball game against then-rival Bellarmine University. #BellarmineHateWeek was trending on Twitter at points throughout the week, culminating in the Knights’ win over the Norse 86-75 at The Bank of Kentucky Center.

PREDICTION: Northern Kentucky 68, Florida Gulf Coast 65