Battle in the Bayou – FAU holds on to defeat Tulane on last second Free Throws

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By Robbie Lastella

It was another edge of your seat type of game for FAU, as both the Owls and Tulane traded runs and leads back and forth for a majority of this game. But it was the battle tested Owls coming through in the end, as Alijah Martin hit 2 late free throws and lifted FAU to their first true road win of the year, 85-84 over Tulane.

“That was a special college basketball game. We have a lot of respect for this program, the way they play this game, how competitive they are, the quality of players and coaching. This was a big game for our team, we hated that it came down to the play that it did. I wish we could have separated earlier when we had a nice lead, but these guys stayed the course and I do feel like both teams probably deserved to win.

I would not want to have a pacemaker watching American conference basketball this year, it seems like every game has been like this… we started to resemble the best version of ourselves at times tonight and we have to get back and fix a few things, but a very good win for our program,” Coach Dusty May said after the game. 

FAU was able to break their habit of starting off games cold, with the Owls hitting their first 5 shots, eventually going on a 10-0 run to jump out to a 19-10 lead early. The lineup changes were working, and Nick Boyd, who started, hit 2 early triples to help the Owls grab momentum. The Owls, and especially Boyd got out to a hot start and after the game Boyd talked about how his mentality shifted prior to the Charlotte game. 

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“I feel like when I was going through what I was going through with my injury, my energy kind of dropped and I was really consumed about myself. I feel like right before the Charlotte game I had a good conversation with one of the coaches that was here prior, he said ‘man you just look different out there your energy is not the same and I feel like that’s the difference in the team’.

That Charlotte game I decided no matter what happened I was just gonna have positive energy, and I went out there and I had a better game than I had prior, and I just wanted to keep doing that and when you think less about yourself good things tend to happen,” Boyd said. 

Tulane didn’t start out badly on their part, shooting above 50% for a majority of the first half. But FAU was hitting their shots and hustling, getting contributions from just about everyone early. Johnell Davis hit a pair of triples early, and one directly off an offensive rebound, which put the Owls up 29-19 with 9:18 to play in the first half.

Tulane came out hot out of the 8-minute media timeout, forcing a few turnovers and scoring 7 straight; including a slam from Kevin Cross which got the crowd involved for the first time in the half. Tulane cut the lead to 29-26 with 6:27 to play and all of a sudden, this game was close for the first time all day. FAU was reeling offensively and had a stretch of 5 turnovers in 6 possessions over the final 6 minutes of the half. 

Tulane was able to keep it close throughout the rest of the half, and briefly took a 3-point lead before the end of the first half. The green wave and the owls traded buckets before the end of the half, but Brandon Weatherspoon got a second chance basket right before the end of the half to put FAU ahead 39-38 going into the half. 

The first 4 minutes of the second half was much needed for FAU, as the Owls came out of the gates extremely hot. 8 points to start the half for Nick Boyd helped set the tone for FAU and a 3 pointer from Alijah Martin helped the Owls jump out to a 54-44 lead with 16:26 to play. 

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Vlad Goldin, who finished with 19, was getting everything, he wanted down low in the second half and the Owls used his size to help keep a steady lead. He scored 3 straight buckets for FAU at one point midway through the second half, and the final one of that stretch put FAU up 62-54 with 13:17 to play. 

Tulane was not backing down however, and Jaylen Forbes was unconscious in the second half. He had 16 points midway through the half, and his three pointer with 11:38 to play cut the lead to 65-62. 

The teams continued to trade blows following that point, and the game remained within a few scores.The game started to turn a bit following 7 straight points from Nick Boyd, who finished with a season high 21 on the night. His run put the Owls up 80-74 with 4:27 to play and helped FAU grab momentum. After the game, Nick talked about how he got into a rhythm as the game went along. 

“I feel like it’s important to take what the game gives you. In the first half I had a couple open looks that my teammates created for me and I made them so I was feeling good. I just try to stay within the game and create for my teammates as well, but I was open and I was able to make some big time shots,” Boyd said. 

Johnell Davis had a career high 8 assists on the night, and he found Brandon Weatherspoon for a triple with 3:03 to play to put FAU up 83-74. Tulane responded with 8 straight of their own and a fast break layup, which cut the lead to 83-82 with just under a minute to play. 

A few possessions later, Tulane retook the lead 84-83 and was looking for a few defensive stops for their first ranked win at home since the 1990s. FAU had one last possession with 15 seconds left and missed their first 2 attempts. On their 3rd attempt of the possession Alijah Martin was fouled on a 3 pointer, he went to the line and hit 2 out of 3 and FAU ended up winning the game on those free throws, 85-84. After the game, Coach May addressed the final possession that resulted in a foul. 

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“I asked one of the assistants, was it definitely a foul and he said yes. In our last game Vs Charlotte, we fouled an 18-footer with 1.7 seconds. I’ll just say, we didn’t like that call and I’m sure Tulane didn’t like this call. It is what it is, I’m sure we are going to have some more battles with Tulane going forward, that is a really good basketball team,” Coach May said. 

The Owls have played in 3 extremely competitive conference games so far to start this year, and the schedule is just getting started. Coach May believed that these early battles are preparing his team well for what is to come throughout this season.

“I think we’re definitely feeling how challenging it is going to be, and thank goodness we have guys that love challenges and to compete. We loved our schedule, and we did what we felt like was the best thing for our players, our program, and our university was to do, but the downside was that we weren’t battle tested on the road in early season.

We did really well in neutral sites and at home, but we hadn’t felt the energy against us on the road like we had the past couple of games. I’m a big believer in you have to go through things and you have to feel some things and if you don’t have your best stuff then you can still figure out a way to win,” Coach May said. 

The Owls bounce back following the tough loss to Charlotte, with a thrilling victory over Tulane. FAU will be back in action on Sunday, January 14th at 12 pm; the game will be broadcast on ESPN+
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