This time last week the Owls were in the hunt for a possible bye in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament. However, after back to back losses to Troy and Western Kentucky eliminated that possibility, they readjusted their sights on attaining the best seed possible.
Taking on Middle Tennessee, FAU hoped for a win and some help. They could place as high as fifth with both.
Tonight the late season slide reached three games, as they started sluggish and could never recover, falling to Middle Tennessee (19-12, 13-5) by a final score of 66-57.
Florida Atlantic (14-15, 10-8) finishes the regular season while matching its most wins in league play since joining the Sun Belt, earning an eighth seeding, but Coach Mike Jarvis isn’t pleased.
“It’s difficult for me to be happy at this moment because we didn’t show up tonight”, said Jarvis. “It’s unfortunate that tonight we had a bad game. Monday we’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
FAU was content to try and go inside early on, but with less than eight minutes remaining in the first period had just 10 points. The Blue Raider’s man to man defense stumped the Owl’s offense, often forcing awkward looks underneath.
“They consistently play hard, and play good defense. We did that the last time we played them, and if we played well tonight it would have probably been that type of game again”, said Jarvis about the Owl’s earlier season win in Murfreesboro.
Middle Tennessee built a 32-15 lead at the 3:30 mark of the first half until FAU closed on a 7-0 run to trail 32-22 at the break.
Florida Atlantic’s 22 points in the frame was the lowest total for a half on the season; falling short of the previous mark of 23 set against Miami on December 19th.
The Owls had no answer for the Blue Raiders offensive attack either, which consistently focused on dribble drives followed by front court baskets or kick outs to the wings.
“I think Middle is the most talented team [in the league]. But there was something lacking tonight. Maybe we were due for one of these games”, Jarvis said. “We’re going to have to put that behind us. There’s a whole new season that begins next week in Hot Springs.”
The second half would mirror the first, as the Blue Raiders maintained a double digit advantage until a Sanchez Hughley free throw made it 60-51 with 1:31 remaining.
FAU would close to seven after a Brett Roster dunk, but get no closer.
Bench points were a factor for the Owls tonight, as they were outdone 18-4, with Shavar Richardson being FAU’s only contributor.
Hughley posted 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Owls in his third double-double of the season.
Greg Gantt led all scorers with 17 points and was 4of 4 from the line.
Middle Tennessee was paced by Desmond Yates’ 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
The Owls next travel to Hot Springs, AR for the first round of the Sun Belt tournament were they will face ninth seed South Alabama at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.