Western Kentucky Tops FAU In Overtime 78-69
After battling back from a nine point deficit late in the second half to force overtime, the Owls had their chances but could not connect when it counted as Western Kentucky (18-12, 11-6) defeated Florida Atlantic (14-14, 10-7) tonight 78-69 at FAU Arena.
The game was a must win for FAU to keep hopes of a first round bye alive in the Sun Belt conference tournament. The loss, coupled with wins by both Middle Tennessee and Troy, now drops them into third place in the Eastern Division.
After a 13 point performance in overtime against Arkansas State last Saturday, the Hilltoppers got seven points from A.J. Slaughter in the extra period.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on him throughout most of the game, but in overtime he just made shots and we had no answer for it”, said Brett Royster who had 16 points and 10 rebounds for FAU.
Of most importance, the Hilltoppers out-rebounded the Owls 47-25 for the contest.
“They’re big and they’re good. We got pounded on the boards”, said Owls coach Mike Jarvis. “But I’m very pleased with where we’re at and looking forward to Saturday.”
The difference off the glass accounted for a large part of WKU’s 36 points in the paint, which was a key factor in the end.
Strong defense highlighted the first half, in which neither team could gain a significant offensive rhythm.
The Owls held Western Kentucky to just 16.7% from beyond the arc, but committed nine turnovers which helped the Hilltoppers to a 28-24 lead at intermission.
FAU began the second half on a 5-0 run, only to see WKU answer with a 9-0 run themselves. The Hilltoppers would eventually build a 57-48 lead with 6:00 to play.
But Greg Gantt, who had just three points in the first period, got hot and hit three baskets from long range to allow FAU to tie it up and send the game into overtime at 61-61.
“They made some big threes. Our defense on the guards loosened up just enough for them to get back and get some good looks”, said Hilltoppers coach Ken McDonald. “Give them credit for making those shots.”
The Owls couldn’t keep up in overtime after Western Kentucky scored the first four points.
Trailing 74-69 with :46 remaining FAU had chances to close the gap but missed on three attempts from outside the arc while WKU sank four free throws for the difference.
Florida Atlantic will take on Middle Tennessee this Saturday at FAU Arena in its final game of the regular season at 7:00 p.m.