Florida Atlantic fell in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament tonight to the Mean Green of the University of North Texas by a final score of 79-73.
The game was tied early on at 8 a piece until North Texas pulled ahead behind a 7-0 run at the 14:00 mark 15-8. The Mean Green used speedy transition play to respond with every subsequent basket by FAU and eventually built a 14 point lead with just under 5:00 to play in the first period.
The Owls would close the gap slightly, as North Texas led at the break 47-36. However, Florida Atlantic put forth a ferocious charge in the second half. Down 14 points midway through the period, Florida Atlantic began a slow and methodical charge off of hot shooting from Paul Graham. They would eventually reduce the lead to just 2 points with 48 seconds to play when Freshman Guard Alex Tucker connected on two free throws.
The Owls almost had the ball and chance to tie when the Mean Green's Josh White missed a jumper on the ensuing UNT possession with 17 seconds left. But a huge offensive rebound by Dominique Johnson gave North Texas a fresh clock. FAU was then forced to foul.
Ironically, FAU outscored North Texas 37-32 in the second half, and out shot them 45.8% to 41.8% for the contest.
But free throws were a key difference in the game, as the Mean Green went to the line a staggering 35 times, and hit on 29 of them.
"Almost...but the effort was good and that is something that we are going to have as we move forward. We had the ball with twelve seconds to go and we lose the ball. If we had the ball, who knows what happens", offered Coach Jarvis on the spirited loss.
UNT was led by Josh White, who had 24 points behind 8 of 15 shooting.
The Owl's Brett Royster had a frustrating night defensively, fouling out after just 15 minutes of play.
That's the Stats Jack - Senior Style
- Paul Graham had 23 points while sinking all 8 of his free throws
- Carlos Monroe added 15 points and 9 rebounds
- Chris Coleman put the finishing touches on his inspirational story as an Owl walk on scoring 9 points on 4 of 7 shooting
Up Next For The Owls
We'll have more on this year with a few wrap ups and post season interviews, but up next for Florida Atlantic men's basketball is the beginning of a new "season". This one is in the books. A lot of fans may feel this year was meaningless with mounting loss after loss, and wins coming few and far between. But I would beg to differ. A lot is learned in life through trials and seasons of difficulty. Obviously this bucks the South Florida Fickle mentality of "give me wins or give me death".
But, for the Owl faithful, there are a lot of takeaways to be observed. Albeit intangibles for the most part.
Chemistry was established amongst young players. Valuable practice time was gained by incoming transfer center Justin Davis who Coach Jarvis II recently was quoted as saying "will be our biggest addition". Sanchez Hughley also had some time to rest and prepare for his role next year. He is by far the quickest guy on the squad, and will add athleticism at the guard position. Four new players also made the decision to be a part of what Head Coach Mike Jarvis is building at Florida Atlantic University. And there should be a couple more to come.
Keep a watchful eye on Darren Stewart out of Monsignor Pace. He is a guy who can defend fiercely. Something the team desperately needed this year to stop opposing team's top scorers at guard positions, and has missed since the departure of Brent Crews.
Yes, refreshingly, next season offers a new roster, new perspective, and a new record. It's 0-0 for FAU again.
"We have camp coming up in about three weeks and we will be ready when it starts", said Jarvis.
The next season starts now.