Boca Raton, FL- FAU against North Texas on Sunday afternoon was expected to be a battle, and the expectation held true. The game came down to the final possession, tied, with the ball in Johnell Davis’s hands. Davis, who finished with 28 points, rose up for a game winning 3-pointer in the final seconds, sending the fans into madness, and the Owls home with their 6th straight victory, 66-63 over the Mean Green.
“I want to give a shoutout to our fans, our students, on a Sunday early afternoon. They gave us their time and brought a little bit extra when things weren’t going great for us. Anyone that has followed our program, you can look at any of the games we played against North Texas and they look a lot like this. One possession games, 2 teams that really put a lot into it and value winning. We couldn’t have more respect for them, but we have a long road ahead of us, we still have to go back to Denton. Very proud of us, figuring out a way to get a home win,” Coach Dusty May said after the game.
Early on it was evident that another battle between these 2 squads was going to be on-tap, as following the slow start the Owls and Mean Green were going toe to toe. Johnell Davis had 5 early points, and FAU matched the Mean Greens defensive intensity forcing 4 turnovers in the first 8 minutes, including 2 shot clock violations. At the 12-minute mark, UNT was up 12-11 and the teams were trading baskets, albeit at a slow pace.
Following that stretch, the Mean Green defense was in full effect forcing the Owls into a scoring drought that stretched over 3 minutes and allowed UNT to start trying to grab ahold of momentum. Although Vlad missed a pair of layups during that stretch, he was playing aggressive and trying to put himself in positions to score. He went 1 for 2 from the free throw line to end the scoring drought, and back-to-back triples from Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis gave the Owls their first lead of the game, 17-14, with 8:27 to play in the half. Goldin struggled a bit in the first half with foul trouble and a few missed easy ones, but Coach May isn’t too concerned with the Outcomes as long as the team is getting good looks, speaking on it after the game.
“I thought he (Vlad) made a couple really poised strong drives and the ball didn’t drop. We pride ourselves on not being outcome based… Vlad had a couple early fouls, and therefore he didn’t play a lot in the first half, he wasn’t as aggressive as usual,” Coach May
Over the next 5 minutes the teams continued to battle, as UNT responded quickly, and FAU didn’t lead by more than 3. John Buggs III returned from Injury last game and is one of the Mean Green’s biggest three-point threats, he came off the bench this afternoon and hit a triple to regain the lead for UNT, 24-21, with 4:32 to play in the half.
UNT grabbed a 5-point lead with 1:41 to play in the first half and looked to take momentum into the half but were unable to extend the lead. A Johnell Davis triple with 1:14 to play made it 28-26 UNT, which was the score that the teams took into the locker room.
The Mean Green came out of halftime with a bust of energy, as they scored 5 straight and forced a turnover on FAU, to quickly go up 7, 33-26, less than 2 minutes into the second half. FAU was quick to respond, as they rattled off 5 in a row of their own and following a Nick Boyd triple, it was back to a 2-point game, 33-31 with 17:09 to play in the game.
A battle was in full force, as UNT and FAU traded blows down the stretch in the second half. No team was able to get a larger lead than 4 during the early parts of the half, and with 12:57 to play in the game Brandon Weatherspoon scored 4 straight to tie us at 40 and reignite the raucous Owls Crowd.
FAU took their first lead of the second half only a few possessions later, as with 10:28 to play, Johnell Davis connected from deep for the 5th time of the day to give the Owls a 45-44 lead.
The game stayed within a score for the next couple of minutes, but FAU looked to grab a hold of momentum with 4:10 to play. Vlad put the Ball on the court, attacked the basket and converted a potential and-1 layup as Rondel Walker stood there and absorbed the contact, but he was not in position. Vlad missed the free throw, but the game was tied at 57 with a little over 4 minutes to go. Vlad finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and after the game Coach May spoke on his aggressive effort in the second half.
“In the second half he got in the flow. He was very impactful, you saw us get several extra possessions. We came in the first half, basically without Vlad down 1 rebound. The second half we won the rebounding battle by 8, and got 46% of our shots back. If Vlad is in foul trouble the entire second half, there is no way that happens,” Coach May said.
The teams traded a few baskets down the stretch, with UNT seemingly holding momentum following a Robert Allen bucket that put them up 63-61 with a little over a minute to play. On the following possession FAU got 2 huge offensive rebounds and Nick Boyd was able to score near the hoop to leave us tied at 63 with a little under a minute to play.
UNT got a great look from John Buggs III on a top of the key triple on the next possession, but it rimmed out, and set the Owls up with 13 seconds and one shot to win it.
It was Nelly Davis with the ball in his hands at the top of the key, as the clock ticked down from 10 seconds. He crossed over through his legs and attacked left, took a few dribbles, and a few more, pump faked to get his defender off his feet, and fired an off-balance triple from the left wing that caught nothing but net, to give the Owls a 66-63 lead. UNT had one final shot at a full court heave with less than a second, but they were unable to convert, and it was pandemonium in paradise.
“Coach Drew up a play, for me to get to my left, I tried to sell a drive, tried to step back and get a foul. I do it in practice a lot and it never goes in, but it just happened to go in this time,” Davis said after the game.
There were positives and negatives, for the Owls today as they found a way to win despite some defensive struggles. After the game, Coach gave his thoughts on what he liked from his team today, and what he didn’t.
“We are not extremely pleased with our defensive performance today. Either side of the ball we’re pleased we found a way to win, we have got to clean some things up and get a lot better. North Texas had great looks, and to be honest against their defense we were happy with a lot of our looks,” Coach May said after the game.