Turnaround in Overtime
In search of their first Sun Belt conference championship, Florida Atlantic (19-9, 11-3) kept hopes alive tonight knocking off Florida International in overtime 80-78 at Century Bank Arena in Miami.
The victory, which snapped a two game slide and tied a program high for victories since joining the DI ranks, gives FAU it’s best ever win tally in Sun Belt play (11). Winning their remaining two games would assure Florida Atlantic the regular season title.
“The guys did show a lot of character in coming back and winning this game, but we have a lot of work to do”, said head coach Mike Jarvis afterwards.
After the Owls led most of the first half, the Golden Panthers closed the gap late. Shavar Richardson’s three pointer just before the buzzer gave FAU a 33-30 lead at the break.
Florida International (9-17, 4-10) rallied again in the second though, assuming a nine point advantage until Ray Taylor’s well timed outside shooting helped get the Owls back into the game and eventually tie it up at 70 a piece.
Jordan McCoy, who poured in a career best 19 points - including 13 in the latter frames - stole the ball from FIU’s DeJuan Wright to send the contest into overtime.
“Jordan McCoy was outstanding at crunch time, and Ray Taylor made some huge threes”, Jarvis said.
Greg Gantt’s bucket from beyond the arc in the extra period gave the Owls their first lead since the 13:37 mark of the second half, and one they would not relinquish this time.
The Golden Panthers had a chance to go ahead after a Phil Taylor steal with :33 remaining, but Brett Royster blocked DeJaun Wrights’ lay-up attempt, and Taylor forced a key turnover to preserve the win.
Gantt paced Florida Atlantic with 21 points and a career high nine rebounds, as the Owls improved to 15-13 all-time against the Golden Panthers.
FIU had been successful from long range in the season’s earlier meeting, but was held to just 3-of-14 on Saturday.
Troy will visit FAU Arena next Thursday night as the Owls wrap up the 2010-11 home slate. Tip off time is 7:00 p.m.
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