By Robbie Lastella
The Owls took their home court for the first time in about 2 weeks and put on a show in front of a raucous home crowd. Backed by 30 points from Johnell Davis, #24 FAU defeated UAB in a wire-to-wire effort, 86-73.
“First of all, I would like to thank the American conference for the showcase today. It was a great event, and I thought our crowd was amazing. The red out, provided a really unique environment and I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to beat a really good, well coached program. When you have been doing it as long as Coach Kennedy, and at the level he has been doing it anytime you can find a way to beat those guys it’s a good day. Overall, I thought we had a couple great individual performances, overall, I thought we played a really solid first half. Second half, we got a little bit loose and UAB took advantage of that. Overall, pleased with where we are mid-January, still not playing the type of basketball we need to play. We’re still evolving as a team and our goals are to develop great habits that will translate in March,” Coach Dusty May said after the game.
For FAU, the game started with Nick Boyd missing 2 open looks, and a turnover, however the Owls weren’t settling for another slow start. Nelly Davis hit 3 straight shots, including 2 triples and a pair of free throws to score the first 10 points for FAU and get the ‘Elly rocking early.
Johnell didn’t score in all the points in the first half, as shortly after that Vlad Goldin got going for FAU. Goldin was getting anything he wanted down low, and the Owls were finding him. Vlad scored 8 out of 10 points over the next 7 minutes for FAU, and with 8:30 to play the Owls opened up a 22-14 lead. After the game, Coach May talked about how the duo’s great start unfolded.
“These guys are involved in everything that we do. To be honest, we had challenged Johnell to be a great screener early. And use the attention he’s getting too free up his teammates and then he would settle into the flow. Fortunately, our guys were in a good rhythm, and they found him, and he found the right matchups, right space and obviously if you can get Johnell with some space usually something good happens for the Owls,” Coach May said.
With 2 of their most important pieces rolling early, the Owls had a grip on momentum and looked to capitalize following that. Nelly Davis scored 7 out of 10 and FAU outscored the Blazers 13 to 4 over the next 4 minutes and the Owls lead ballooned to 35-18.
FAU didn’t slow down over the final 4 minutes of the first half; Tre Carroll, Nick Boyd, and Vlad hit key shots over the final stretch of the first half and helped extend the Owls lead to 43-24 going into the half. Johnell Davis had 19, Vlad Goldin had 10 and the Owls were putting on a show in front of the first post-holiday break crowd. Carroll and Isaiah Gaines got extended minutes in this one following the injury to Giancarlo Rosado, and after the game Coach May gave his thoughts on their performances.
“I thought they both had an impact on winning. They made very solid contributions and they competed. Isaiah has fallen out of the rotation, and he’s been awesome in practice. His attitude and he’s been a great teammate throughout and that’s not always easy to do when you’re out of the rotation and he’s done that, and he’s earned minutes, more than he played tonight. If G’s out, it’s gonna give him and Tre more of an opportunity, it’s gonna give a lot of guys more of an opportunity. That’s why you have to be a professional, stay ready work every single day waiting on your moment, to stay ready for your teammates,” Coach may said after the game.
The second half started out to the tune of the FAU student section heckling Yaxel Lendeborg, and the teams trading baskets. 4 different players scored for UAB, and 3 different players scored for FAU over the first 4 minutes, and the lead held steady for FAU at 54-37 with 15:30 to play. FAU limited Lendeborg tonight, as he was coming into this one averaging 23 points per game over his last 3 coming into it; after the game Coach Dusty May said limiting him was a big part of the game plan.
“He was averaging 23 and 15 over the last 3 games. Anyone who watches college basketball closely, typically juco players take off in December-January. There is a little bit of an adjustment period, and he’s done that. He’s really talented, Nelly had him one on one and I thought he did a great job of getting him off of his spots, and not letting him do what he wanted to do. It was a great effort, I thought we had good gaps and I thought we were aware but more than anything else it was a great individual defensive performance from Johnell,” Coach Dusty May said after the game.
The teams continued to battle down the stretch of the 2nd half, but UAB wasn’t able to make a big enough run to make things interesting. UAB was able to cut into the deficit a bit and get it down to an 8-point game with 4:44 to play, but the Owls were ready with a response. 3 different owls scored a bucket in a little over a minute and following an and-1 basket for Jalen Gaffeny with 3:11 to play the lead was jolted back to 83-68.
The Owls were able to close it out over the final 3 minutes, just failing to cover the spread and winning 86-73. Johnell Davis went down with an injury during the last minute and left the building speechless, fortunately he believes he’s okay.
“I’m feeling good. I just needed to slow down, and I just felt like at the time it was a little bit of pain, but I’m good moving forward,” Davis said.
Johnell Davis dominated for the Owls putting up 30 points tonight and considering he put up 36 against UAB last year, one may wonder if Johnell has something against the Blazers. He doesn’t, and Nelly says he tries to treat every game the same way.
“I try to attack every game with the same intensity. I saw one go in early then my team just kept finding me after that and it went on from there,” Davis said.
One negative aspect of this game is that Giancarlo Rosado went down with an injury in the first half and did not return. There is no definitive answer as to what the injury is yet, but Coach May says to expect him to be out for the foreseeable future.
“They didn’t give me anything definitive, I would anticipate a few weeks. I can’t imagine him playing this week, but that would be as comfortable as I am to say anything,” Coach may said.
The Owls have rattled off two wins in a row following the loss to Charlotte, and FAU will be looking to keep the hot streak going Thursday against Wichita State at home, and Johnell Davis says that team is taking it one game at a time.
“We just try to keep building every day. We just try to continue from these two wins and bring the energy more,” Davis said.
FAU will have a few days off before they look to make it 3 in a row on Thursday, January 18th against Wichita State at home. The game will be another linear broadcast for FAU, either on ESPN or ESPN 2. Last Thursday’s ESPN 2 game against Tulane drew a whopping 240,000 viewers, which made it the 4th highest watched CBB game of the week.
Photos provided to Bleacher Brothers Media by Christian Proscia. Copyright Christian Prosaic