Defense played a major role for both teams in FAU’s match up with the Red Wolves tonight. But in the end it was the Owls that made the most timely of plays, coming away victorious by a final score of 61-57 at FAU Arena.
“Games against good teams are going to be won eventually at the defensive end. It’s going to be which team will dig the deepest”, said Coach Mike Jarvis. “You probably saw the two best defensive teams in the league tonight.”
With the win, Florida Atlantic (11-6, 4-0) remains atop the Sun Belt’s eastern division with a half game advantage over Florida International.
In a slow paced first frame featuring six ties, the teams would battle closely until Shavar Richardson’s steal it at the top of the key and subsequent lay-in gave the Owls a slim 26-24 advantage at intermission.
Arkansas State (7-10, 2-2) kicked things into gear to start the second, mounting their largest lead at 41-34 and snuffing some of the fire out of a lively group of 1,339 fans on hand.
However, it would be short lived as Ray Taylor’s lay-up, and three pointer immediately afterwards, began an 18-0 run for Florida Atlantic.
“Once we got started we didn’t look back”, Taylor said. “High energy, high intensity on effort, and we took pride on defense.”
But the Owls weren’t out of the woods just yet.
Down 52-41, Arkansas State mounted a furious comeback attempt, bringing the game to within a single bucket at 59-57 when Donald Boone hit from long range with: 33 remaining.
After a missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one by Taylor, the Red Wolves had possession with: 17 left to tie or go ahead.
With time expiring Boone would have the ball again, but soon found himself in trouble when Greg Gantt made the biggest play of the game by stealing and tipping it to a waiting Taylor, who dashed down the floor unguarded for the game’s final basket.
“That’s a situation that we’ve been through a lot in practice, so it wasn’t really new to us”, said Taylor. “Greg did a great job at reading where he was passing to and jumped into the lane stole the ball.”
Brett Royster moved closer towards the Sun Belt’s all-time blocks title with three swats tonight. He needs just two more to surpass former UAB Blazer Alan Oggs’ mark of 266 career dismissals.
Kore White led the Owls with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and four blocks.
FAU wraps up its four game home stand against Manhattan College next Tuesday in a make-up contest that was postponed due to the Jaspers being snowed in back in December. Tip-off time is 7:00 p.m.