Say this for the first time ever at Florida Atlantic University: Sun
Belt Conference Champion; 20-game winner.
FAU’s men’s basketball program reached those milestones Thursday night with a 77-60 victory over Troy University at FAU Arena in the season’s final home game for the Owls.
FAU led from start to finish, by as many as 18 points on stellar play by Shavar Richardson, the high scorer with 19 points; and Brett Royster, who had a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds) in his last home game.
“This might be the happiest I have ever been in my life,” said Royster, who was honored along with fellow senior
Justin Davis, before the game. “We’ve come a long way.”
“This season has been special from beginning to end,” Royster said, “and for it to end like this on our home court is a special moment for all of us.”
Troy (8-19, 6-9 Sun Belt) – which had won three consecutive games before losing to Arkansas State last weekend – was cold from behind the arc and allowed FAU numerous turnovers and second chance buckets. The Owls led by 13 (26-13) at 6:37 in the first half before Troy cut the lead to 9 (36-27) at the half.
FAU (20-9, 12-3 Sun Belt) held Troy to a 39.7 shooting percentage; Troy’s 60 percent three-point percentage in the second half kept the Trojans in the game. The Owls shot 45.3 percent from the field.
Troy crept as close as 7 points down early in the second half before Greg Gantt and Ray Taylor hit back-to-back threes and Gantt added a layup to put the Owls up by 15. FAU pushed the lead to 18 at 12:56 on a Richardson three-pointer,
and to 19 (the largest lead) at 9:24 on a Kore White trey.
“We came out with tremendous energy,” Taylor said. “I tried to pick up the energy and lead the team to victory.
“We still missed a couple of shots,” Taylor said. “Even though it was comfortable, it could have been better than that.”
Richardson, who started his first game of the season, had three three-pointers and was 6-for-10.
“We had a good week of practice. I was feeling good all week,” he said.
White had 13 points and Taylor, 11, for the Owls.
“We knew we had to win this game for the championship,” said White, a redshirt sophomore and Marshall transfer. “The thing that kept us in the game is that we were all together, especially on the defense.”
Vernon Taylor was high scorer for Troy with 16; Will Weathers had 12, and Bernard Toombs, 10 points.
FAU head coach Mike Jarvis said a comfortable win on Senior Night, during the last home game of the season, was well deserved after a season of nail-biters. The players and crowd of 1,834 deserved it, he said.
“We’re not used to games like this. I was sort of waiting for us to get … down,” Jarvis said. “If there was ever a night
to have comfortable win, tonight was the night.”
Jarvis said he expects the Owls to win their regular season finale at South Alabama on Sunday and win the Sun Belt tournament in two weeks at Hot Springs, Ark. FAU is guaranteed at least a National Invitation Tournament win with
the regular season title.
“I really believe that this is just the beginning,” said Jarvis a couple of minutes after his Owls jumped around with a crowd of students at midcourt, rang the Victory Bell, posed for photos and even did a little victory dance. “I told our guys, ‘Enjoy this. Don’t take anything for granted.’
“I told them that long ago, before we were a team, God knew we were going to be a team and put us together. He does incredible things with ordinary people. We’ve done some extraordinary things and I hope he has more in store for us.”
• Jarvis on Brett Royster: “Brett Royster has been through a lot of adversity as a player – battles with self-confidence and 6-win seasons,” Jarvis said. “He’s been great. Even when he is in foul trouble, he is still a factor because the other team is looking for him (on defense).”
• On Justin Davis, who started Thursday night: “Justin got out of this what he was supposed to get, an education and a job. He’s going to work for J.P. Morgan and it doesn’t get much better than that. “Justin is an exceptional student and he is a student first.”
• This will be just FAU’s second postseason berth in history.
• FAU will wrap up its regular season at 5 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday in Mobile at South Alabama. The FAU women – who defeated Troy at home on Wednesday night, play before the men.
• FAU unveiled its new, fiercer looking Owl mascot costume with great fanfare at halftime Thursday. The mascot –
which will be named in a student referendum – was well received.