On Saturday December 23rd, #14 FAU will matchup against #4 Arizona, in Las Vegas; in what has developed to be a critical non-conference matchup for both teams.
Coming into the game:
The Owls are coming off a week of rest, riding a 2 game win streak and are rolling off a quality victory over St.Bonaventure, which was a gritty comeback win and gives the team a bit of momentum riding into this matchup. This game will be the Owls final chance to matchup with a ranked non conference opponent and they will be looking to prove the doubters wrong once again and finish the final stretch of non-conference play on a high note.
Arizona is coming off a solid 13 point win over Alabama, which was a bounce back game for them following the tough loss to Purdue. Arizona was previously unbeaten on the season prior to the loss to Purdue and had no problem with ranked teams, holding a 3-0 record and beating Duke on the road. This will be a Semi-home matchup for the Wildcats, and although Arizona is battle-tested, FAU has been known to put on a show in big matchups like this and will be ready to put up a fight.
Players to watch:
For FAU, there are many players to watch- and that is a great thing coming into a matchup against a team like Arizona who can shut star players down. A crucial aspect of this game is whether or not Alijah Martin can dominate like he has in the past for a full 40 minutes. Martin has been a bit streaky scoring wise as of late, but a dominating performance in this matchup would be huge for FAUs chances.
Along with Martin, it will be imperative for Johnell Davis to continue his strong play outside of scoring and continue to work within the offense to set up his teammates for success. He’s been able to hit the timely shots when needed, but his spacing has set up great shot looks for his teammates and helped the offense flourish in the second half against St.Bonaventure.
Arizona will have a bit of a size advantage, so it will be important for Vlad Goldin and Giancarlo Rosado, along with Brennen Lorient to be physical and put themselves in good positions to win the paint battles early on. Coach May has mentioned wanting to get Lorient more involved, and he’s someone who could provide a boost of energy and physicality off the bench for FAU.
For Arizona, they are very deep as well and have a lot of guys who can hurt you outside of their main star in Caleb Love. Outside of Love who is currently leading the way averaging 15.5 ppg, their entire starting lineup is averaging at least 12 ppg which shows that on any given night it can be a different guy who can hurt you.
A familiar foe for FAU is Keshad Johnson, who was on SDSU last season and is having a great season for Arizona this year. Keshad has the potential to impact the game from beyond the arc and down low, currently averaging 7 rebounds a game while also hitting 35% from deep. FAU was able to shut him down in the final four matchup last season, however the Owls will need to be physical down low and close out defensively against Johnson to keep him quiet once again.
Down low, Arizona has a pair of big men who can give FAU some serious problems if they are able to get going in the paint. Oumar Ballo who starts averages 13 points and 7 boards a game is able to be very physical and manage to not get winded easily. Off the bench the Wildcats have a 7’2 Freshman, Motiejus Krivas who has been one of the Wildcats most efficient players in limited minutes. The Wildcats have 2 big men that can compete at the same level and that has helped them dominate games, but the Owls have 2 big men of their own which will lead to some fun matchups down low.
This game is going to be a battle for both sides and with FAU coming in at 7 point underdogs they will be riding that slept on mentality that has helped them out in so many big games so far over the past season and a half.
Offensively the Owls will need to come out of the gates fast, unlike the St.Bonaventure game and get the physicality and shots flowing early. The Owls can’t come out of the gates too fast and play sloppily. It will be important to get good shots and have good ball movement against an Arizona team which comes in with the second rated defensive efficiency in the Country. The Owls have struggled a little bit from the free throw line as of late, and although it doesn’t concern Coach May- it will be extremely important for the Owls to take advantage of all opportunities for points, and if they are able to attack the paint and draw fouls the team will need to convert from the stripe.
Defensively this is a tough matchup for the Owls, as the Wildcats are able to throw length at you from the forwards and from the big men which is something that is a disadvantage for an undersized FAU team. Size hasn’t stopped the Owls before, and although it’s a difficult matchup it isn’t an impossible one. FAU will have to look to keep the Wildcats out of the paint and force them to shoot it more than they want to. Arizona currently comes in 308th in the country at 3 pointers attempted, so if FAU forces them to get out of their gameplan a bit it could cause problems for the Wildcats.
That is easier said than done, and with only one blemish on Arizona’s record to this point it has been very hard for teams to get them out of their game plan so far this season. If the Owls are able to slow the Wildcats down in the paint just a tad, and are able to have a good shooting performance from deep themselves that would set them up for success. The Wildcats most likely won’t be able to match a good shooting performance from the Owls with one of their own, which is a major advantage for FAU.
This game will take place at 2 pm EST at the T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas, fans can tune into the game on Fox.