The Ohio Bobcats will face their first true road test of the season, traveling to the Sunshine State to take on Florida Gulf Coast.
With the cold weather slowly starting creep on Ohio (1-0), the Bobcats get a chance to escape to the south for both warmer weather and the chance to beat their toughest nonconference opponent on the schedule. FGCU, which reached the Sweet 16 two years ago, return five seniors form last year’s squad, including three that have been named to the pre-season All-Atlantic Sun team. Their backcourt combination of seniors Bernard Thompson, who was named Atlantic Sun preseason Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, and Brett Comer will be a tough matchup for Ohio’s backcourt of seniors Stevie Taylor and Bean Willis, and freshmen Ryan Taylor and Mike Laster.
As for Ryan Taylor and Laster, whom each played 35 minutes in the opener, they will see their first games in a hostile environment. Although they have never played an actually road game in college, Ohio coach Saul Phillips credits their trip to Canada over the summer as helping them prepare for playing in different environments:
“You can’t simulate (playing on the road), you gotta go through it,” Phillips said. “Luckily, they have already been through it with our trip to Canada over the summer.”
Stevie Taylor, who is Ohio’s current longest tenured player, has seen his fair share of quality point guards. Last year, Taylor was matched with Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and preceded to out-play him, scoring 21 points on the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He never has shied away from the spotlight, and this game is no different.
“Whenever we have big games, I tend to show up,” Taylor said.
With all that battle-tested Stevie Taylor has went through, he told the younger guys that when playing on the road, there one thing to keep in mind:
“If I tell them it’s just basketball, then I think they’ll be fine,” Taylor said.
Conference: Atlantic Sun Conference
Location: Fort Myers, Florida
Offense: 72.0 points per game
Defense: 63.0 points per game
Ohio Player to Watch: Ryan Taylor
Taylor had quite the opening act in his first collegiate game, scoring 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and dishing out a game-high four assists in a victory over Appalachian State. Standing at 6-foot-5, Taylor possess a unique ability to handle the ball and score at his size. Phillips talked about Taylor’s talents, but knows there are things that he can improve upon. With as good of a backcourt that FGCU has, Taylor’s play, along with Stevie Taylor and Bean Willis, will be pivotal if the Bobcats want to leave the warm weather with a victory.
FGCU Player to Watch: Brett Comer
The senior point guard comes into the game currently leading the nation with 11 assists per game and has been one of the best passing point guards in the country over the course of his four-year career. His 631 career assists are the most in FGCU history and he still has another year to add on to that number. Phillips compared him to Nate Wolters, who currently plays with the Milwaukee Bucks and played against Phillips while at South Dakota State. Phillips praised his ability to pass, and said: “Anytime you have a guy like Comer on your team, you’re gonna be good.”