By Robbie Lastella
#23 ranked FAU matches up with conference foe Wichita State on Thursday evening at 7 pm in paradise. This is the second matchup in Men’s basketball between the two schools, with Wichita State holding a 1-0 series lead, dating back to 1998. Earlier in the week, Coach Dusty May gave his thoughts on what the Shockers bring to the table.
“They’re (Wichita State) big, talented, and skilled. They’ve added some pieces that were going to sit out earlier in the season due to the 2-time transfer rule. They’re just like everyone in our league, there’s ebbs and flows to a season, they haven’t gotten off to a good start. I have watched them, and I’ve watched Tulsa, both of those teams are at the bottom of the standings today, but they could beat anyone, and they’re going to both win a lot of games this year. We’re approaching it like we would any other conference game, it’s going to be tough, we’re going to have to defend, rebound, play good sound team basketball on the offensive end and trust that the results will be what we need them to be. Any time we’re playing a team with the size that they have and the mass on the front line, we’re going to have a cumulative effort shooting the ball,” Coach May said in his weekly press conference.
That cumulative effort took a bit of a hit with the loss of Giancarlo Rosado who, per Coach May suffered a sprained knee against UAB and will be out a minimum of 4 weeks going forward. FAU was already admittedly undersized before the loss of Rosado, and now the Owls are down their second-string Big Man.
FAU will be looking towards Tre Carroll, Brenen Lorient, and Isaiah Gaines for big man minutes moving forward. Coach May spoke with Carroll earlier in the week, and May says everyone is on the same page about the increase in minutes going forward.
“I think they’re all aware that there’s 20 minutes a game that’s up for grabs. I think they all bring different things to our team, and we have such great teammates, they just want to contribute and help us win. They’re all aware that there’s going to be more of an opportunity, and we’re well equipped to overcome injury anywhere on our roster I think,” Coach May said.
One Owls storyline to note has been the recent struggles of Alijah Martin, who in his 3 games coming into this matchup is shooting 28% from the field, but Coach May isn’t concerned, and the team will look to get him going while staying within their regular offense.
“We’ve got to get him a bit more involved and get him to his spots and in a position to be successful. He just needs to relax and play good basketball, and good things will happen. Obviously, we all have high expectations of Alijah, the expectations can cause people to be frustrated.
There’s no reason to be frustrated in January, he’s going to have big games, he’s going to have off nights I’m sure like every good basketball player. He’s just gotta stay the course, and we talk about that water finds its level and we’re 4 games in conference play, and we as a staff and program are very confident that water will find its level and Alijah is going to have a very good season, Coach May said.
Wichita State comes into this one riding a 5-game losing streak and has really struggled to shoot it from 3- charting a 31.4% three-point percentage, good for 268th in the nation. The Shockers have had some close games during this stretch, and led against Memphis in the first half, before facing a barrage of offense in the second half from the Tigers. The story for Wichita state has been inconsistency, which at times has plagued FAU as well. Colby Rogers has been good for the Shockers, and one of their only threats from deep, closing in on 40% on the year from 3.
The Owls will need to tune in on Rogers, and limit open looks as the Shockers had some and hit in the first half against Memphis which is what led to the early lead for Wichita State in that game. With the Owls down Rosado, FAU will need to key in on boxing out Kenny Pohto the 6 ’10 big man and Dalen Ridgnal the 6’6 forward who lead the way rebounding for the Shockers.
For FAU, they come into this one riding a 2-game win streak and are on the heels of a wire-to-wire victory over UAB, a game in which Johnell Davis went off for 30 points and helped the Owls overcome an injury to Rosado, and a slow game from Alijah Martin. The Owls will have a new rotation in this one, but don’t expect that to phase the Owls, as adjustments to the lineup are commonplace for this team.
FAU will look for improved defense from Tre Carroll in this one, as that has been a bit of a struggle for him during his game action this year. Ken Pom rating system has charted Carroll as one of the Owls “major contributors” this year, which means Carroll has been used offensively in 24-28% of possessions, it will be interesting to see what he does with an expanded role.
The Owls come into this matchup as 14.5 half favorites, per Hard Rock Sports-book and have failed to cover the spread in their past 3 matchups. Ken Pom predicts an Owls win, 84-68.
FAU fans have another linear broadcast on deck and can tune in at 7 pm on ESPN 2, with John Schriffen and Perry Clark on the call.
Some photos provided to Bleacher Brothers Media by Christian Proscia. Copyright Christian Prosaic