Down to the Wire
What: Florida Atlantic (18-9, 10-3) vs Florida International (9-16, 4-9)
When: Saturday, Feb. 19th @ 7:00 PM EST
Where: US Century Bank Arena
Live Video: Golden Panther Pay Per View
Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: Here
FIU Team Site: Here
G Ray Taylor 11.6 ppg
G Greg Gantt 14.0 ppg
G Alex Tucker 7.7 ppg
F Kore White 8.6 ppg
F Brett Royster 8.1 ppg
G Phil Gary, Jr. 10.2 ppg
G Marvin Roberts 11.3 ppg
G Jeremy Allen 6.8 ppg
G DeJaun Wright 14.6 ppg
F Dominique Ferguson 7.2 ppg
Florida Atlantic narrowed the all-time series gap to just three games (15-12) with a spirited 73-72 comeback victory earlier this month, while improving to a 6-5 mark at FAU Arena. Greg Gantt (19), Brett Royster (18), Shavar Richardson (14), and Ray Taylor (10) were all in double figures as FAU erased a seven point deficit with 1:09 remaining for the win.
FAU at a Glance
Coming off back-to-back losses, the Owls find themselves in the midst of a late season slump heading into Saturday's second showdown against the Golden Panthers. The last time FAU lost two or more games was back in November, with three straight L's to opponents American (82-72 H), Florida (79-66 A), and George Mason (66-51 A).
Three point shooting and defense has suffered the most, and can be attributed to a few things objectively; of which Coach Mike Jarvis discussed on Tuesday during his weekly conference call.
"Shooting is usually correlated, like pitching, through the legs. When you're tired, you don't shoot well. And I think that probably has had as much to do with the shooting in the last couple of weeks as anything, Jarvis explained.
"I really believe that our schedule, the travel the last two weeks, and the lack of practice - spending days in the airport when you need to be on the court - has had more to do with things than anything else", he continued. "The other night it was quite obvious that our guys had lost a step somewhere along the way. Instead of being a step ahead, we were a step behind."
With a full week off and some quality practice time, the Owls could respond as they did after November's slump, immediately knocking off Mississippi State and South Florida for the program's second all-time victory against a Big East opponent, and the second straight over a member of the “Big Six”.
A win against FIU would be the first of three needed to secure an outright Sun Belt regular season title, and the ensuing automatic NIT bid that comes with it.
Alex Tucker recently became the second Owl to register 100+ assists in three-straight seasons, joining former FAU standout Earnest Crumbley (2001-04) who currently holds the career program mark for most dishes with 505. Tucker now sits at 396, with a full senior season yet to play.
Brett Royster is now just six dismissals away from breaking his own single season school record for blocked shots (90).
On the year, Florida Atlantic is yet to win a contest (0-6) when producing a field goal percentage of 40.4% or less.
FIU at a Glance
With what was considered a solid recruiting class coming in this year, the Panthers haven't exactly set the town ablaze so far. Last season's mark of 7-25, 4-14 has been eclipsed overall obviously, but the conference mark may not be much better when it's all said and done; especially given who is left in FAU (H), WKU (A) and Troy (H).
"As you can see we're playing a lot of freshman, and although they are playing with great spirit and great energy they're still freshman. We have a really young team, and the good thing about a young team is you can catch fire. We're hoping by the time the tournament comes around that we'll make free throws and we'll rebound the ball", said Coach Isiah Thomas when asked about his team now entering the latter part of the season.
Last Saturday, the Golden Panthers saw a slow start end in a 80-68 defeat at Middle Tennessee. FIU posted a season low in rebounding, but saw junior guard DeJuan Wright in double digits for the eighth straight time.
"I thought Middle played a good game. They kicked our tail on the boards, and that's the story of the game", Thomas said.
Forward Eric Frederick (6-8, 250), who unexpectedly burned the Owls from downtown (2-of-3) in the season's prior meeting, did not play but will return against FAU.
The Golden Panthers are just 1-12 on the year when registering 20 or less field goals. That's a mark the Owls will likely strive for while trying to keep a previous 9-of-14 performance from the perimeter in check this time around.
FIU comes into Saturday ranking second in the Sun Belt on offense with 73.0 ppg, but is is a polar opposite on the other end of the floor giving up 76.2 ppg (11th).
They own takeaways though, with 8.7 per contest.
Owl's Nest Prediction
Our general crunch yields a slight favor for the visiting Owls. However, have been burned the last two times on the floor.
Just what FAU team will show up on Saturday night is up for debate. On one hand, you have the "we have shot 14.3% from three point" for the last two games squad. On the other you have a "we got some much deserved rest, and are ready to kick some tail" bunch.
Alas, must go with the Owls for two reasons:
They bounced back earlier in the year, and character on the road in conference play (5-1) has never been a question this season - aside from a meltdown in Denver, which any team is capable of.
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