MBB Preview: FAU Vs Rice 

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By Robbie Lastella

#23 FAU men’s basketball has game 2 of their Texas road trip on Wednesday night, as they are set to face off against Rice from Tudor Field house in Houston Texas. Earlier this week, Coach Dusty May gave his thoughts regarding who on Rice to look out for and what to expect from the other Owls.

“Obviously (Max) Fielder is such a unique matchup. He’s probably the premier passer in our conference. Anytime you have their center away from the basket it pulls your center away from the hoop and changes the rim protection and he throws guys open and throws it into space. Obviously, (Travis) Evee is always capable is going off for 30 points, and Huseinovic he’s played much better than last season, he looks comfortable, he looks like he’s in a really good flow and rhythm, and obviously, (Mekhi) Mason a big powerful wing that can make shots. They’ve got a lot of weapons; Rice is a good basketball team and I think they sit here at 1-4 and easily could have been 1-4. These one possession games can go either way… we obviously know how capable Rice is and they easily can turn it on like Utsa did against us and light up the Scoreboard,” Coach May said.

FAU

Vlad Goldin could be in for a tough matchup with Fielder, as his ability to play outside of the paint could draw defensive mismatches against Goldin. When asked if this could be a matchup for Tre Carroll to possibly succeed in, Coach May mentioned that Carroll’s defense is improving, but not yet at a point where they would play him over Vlad in that situation.

“Tre has made a big improvement defensively. Tre before last game had some illness issues and definitely wasn’t himself. He has improved vastly on the defensive end, it’s tough because we’re probably not going to play him over Vlad, so it’s got to be in conjunction with Vlad needing breaks and foul trouble. We all know how important Vlad is important to our team on both sides of the ball, but Tre is carving out a nice role,” Coach May said. 

FAU has been able to get back-to-back dominating performances from Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin in their past 2 games, and Coach is happy that the duo is playing efficient basketball again but notes the team is still growing offensively as a unit.

“It’s exciting that they are playing efficient offensive basketball. I think we are still evolving that we’re finding the right time to use those guys, the screeners as decoys. We’re still a work in progress on both sides of the basketball, we think we have a lot of room for growth on the offensive side of the basketball even though we’re not going to put that much emphasis over there right now. We’re probably on pace to make another jump from an efficiency standpoint, we’re going to play some teams that slow us down. We have got to clean up a few things, but it’s January and we know where we need to get to,” Coach May said.

For FAU- 
FAU

The Owls come into the matchup against Rice riding a 4-game win streak and are on the Heels of an overtime come from behind victory against UTSA. The Owls have been able to close out some tightly contested conference games during this 4-game stretch, thanks to a boatload of offense that has seen them go for 92.5 ppg over the streak.

 Johnell Davis has continued to build on what has been quite the start to the season so far for the Junior Guard, averaging 22 points since December and shooting 54% from the field and 48% from deep. Over the 4-game win streak he has had performances of, 34, 30, 19, and 14. 

Alijah Martin has gotten things rolling over the past 2 games, going for 22 against Wichita state and 26 against UTSA, which included Martin scoring 9 out of 10 straight points in overtime against the Road Runners to help close the door. 

FAU will look for Davis and Martin to continue dominating together, however following a 21-point performance from Brandon Weatherspoon against UTSA the Owls may try to continue to feed the hot hand and try to get Spoon going consistently. 

For Rice-

Rice comes into this game fresh off their first AAC win of the year, defeating Temple in a close one 69-66. They are led by Travis Evee, who is currently averaging 16.6 points per game and is 4th in the amongst all D-1 players with 353 triples, but as Coach May mentioned- the Texas Owls get contributions from across the Board.

Someone who may give FAU problems as previously mentioned is the Big Man Max Fielder, who spaces the floor quite effectively for Rice and will force FAU to bring Vlad Goldin outside of the paint. He’s currently averaging 9.8 points per game and leading the conference in rebounds per game, at 9.4. Where he’s able to hurt you mainly is his passing ability, currently checking in at 5 assists per game, which is good for second in the conference amongst all players. 

Rice is going to look to slow FAUs offense down, as Rice allows only 75.6 points per game and they are scoring 73.4 points per game, while FAU is averaging 82.6 points per game and only giving up 71.3 points per game. 

The Game-
FAU

No one except the Line Makers can comfortably expect this to be a blow out, as almost every AAC game has been a battle of some sort so far. If Rice is able to slow FAUs offense down and allow for Evee and Fielder to get in rhythm early, it could mean another tightly contested conference battle taking place. On the other hand, if FAUs offense is able to continue its explosive pace it has been on over the past 4 games, it could be an uphill battle for Rice to try to stay in this one.

Ken Pom is currently predicting an 82-71 FAU victory, while Hard Rock Sports Book has the spread currently set at -11.5. 

Both sets of Owl’s fans will be able to catch this game on Wednesday night at 8 pm EST on ESPN+, with Matt Pederson and Austyn Iven on the call from Rice. 

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