By Robbie Lastella
Following FAU’s second non conference loss of the season- both games which the Owls could have won had they gotten a few extra possessions, some fans may be pressing the panic button.
However, it’s far too early into the season to be remotely worried about 2 losses. By the time March comes around this team will be using those 2 early season losses as motivation, rather than the bracket voters using it against them.
In terms of the Bryant loss, it has the potential to be the only Q3 or less loss of the season for the Owls. A stat which if it holds, will make the loss irrelevant for bracketologists as it will show that FAU continued to get better as the season went along. That loss also resulted in the Owls getting back to their best brand of basketball since the tournament run and if they hadn’t found it after Bryant, this team might not have been in the right mentality to dominate the ESPN invitational in the way that they did.
Looking at the Illinois game, this Owls team faced the near impossible challenge of beating a bigger Power 5 team when 2 of their best players had career nights- and they almost managed to do it. FAU was within a single score down the stretch, but we’re just unable to take it home- it should be noted that the Owls were in this game with Vlad dealing with Foul trouble, Alijah and Brandon Weatherspoon having off nights, and Nick Boyd remaining out. After the game Coach May talked about how Domasks electric performance threw a bit of an offensive curveball at the team.
“He took advantage of things we’re typically okay with giving up, later going on to explain ‘Our goal every night is to not allow assisted baskets to force teams to play 1 on1 against our defenders. We did that very well, we were 2 last year and probably 6 out of 360 right now at forcing you to score without assists disrupting your off gear and forcing teams to play 1 on 1 basketball. They did that at an extremely efficient level tonight and we could have done some things schematically to help our guys but to be honest we haven’t been exposed like that in the midrange since we been here, and so this was uncharted territory,” Coach May
FAU had a game plan and they were able to execute it against a bigger power 5 team and that is something to hold your hat on if you are an Owls fan. The Owls were able to hold the Illini to 10 assists, which was their second lowest total of the season- but Shannon Jr & Domask hit tough shots on their own, beating FAUs game plan and leading their team to the win. But in terms of the loss, Owls fans have to look at it as a building block in a very long season- one where some early season learning wouldn’t hurt.
Offensively for the Owls as it was known going into it, they were going to be at a size disadvantage- and once Vlad got into Foul trouble it made it even worse. FAU was able to get production from Tre Carroll and Brennen Lorient but it left them lacking a bit defensively, after the game Coach May talked about their performances and what they might look to improve.
“Offensively, he gave us a jolt in the first half, made some shots, got the big guy away from the rim, did a nice job. We’ve got to figure out ways to defend better when he’s on the floor as a unit, but he’s a young guy that doesn’t have a lot of experience. I thought Brenen Lorient gave us very valuable minutes. I’d love to find a way for him to play a little bit more, or a lot more,” Coach May said.
This team has depth, that is no secret- but the team Coaches have some work to do on how to utilize that depth in the most effective way possible. But this is no surprise, as Coach May spoke on this topic of depth back at media day for FAU and echoed those same ideas.
“If the season started this moment the rotation would be too big. It’s a good problem because it’s not as if in the first couple of years we had a too big of a rotation that it was a more of us trying to figure out who we were going to play. Now we can overcome injuries we can overcome foul trouble we can overcome a lot of things because we have a lot of confidence in 16 guys on our roster. We’re trying to play a little bit faster, we’re trying to generate a few more possessions and we’re trying to exert more energy in every facet to give us the best chance to utilize our personnel,” Coach May said on October 19th at FAU media day.
Taking a look back at a quote always provides food for thought- and this is another prime example. FAU is in a great position currently in terms of personnel, only lacking a bit of height which is made up in heart. FAU has made it through non conference play so far with only 2 blemishes and if they can make it through the rest of this stretch with only 1 loss or less- it will have been a successful Non-Conference stretch, one that hopefully the team has used as a learning period about themselves as well.
Next game for FAU is against FIU, and the team will have about a week off to prepare for it- a week that will be very important in terms of preparation.