In a battle of conference leaders between two veteran coaches, Florida Atlantic (10-10, 6-3) came up strong in the second half to run away with a 78-63 victory tonight against Arkansas State (11-8, 6-2).
“They’re a good team. It should do a lot for the guys”, said Mike Jarvis.
Last year, ASU escaped with a 62-60 win in Jonesboro.
This time things would be different.
“They seemed a little quicker than we were on the perimeter, and they were a little more physical than we were. FAU played well tonight, played better than we did, and deserved to win the game by how well they played”, said John Brady.
FAU got most of its production from an unlikely bunch, with Sanchez Hughley (17), Greg Gantt (16), Alex Tucker (16), and Shavar Richardson (12), accounting for 60 of the Owl’s 78 points.
Brett Royster and Ray Taylor finished with just eight points collectively.
Brady seemed surprised by Tucker’s performance during post game interviews, but really shouldn’t have been. After all, it was Tucker who had a career high performance against the Red Wolves last season.
He posted 15 points and seven rebounds tonight; almost mirroring last year’s outing.
“Great game to play in. Last year I had 16 (points) and eight (rebounds) at their place. Maybe it’s just Arkansas State”, said Tucker.
The Owls were perplexed early on offensively, as ASU applied tight man to man pressure on the wings and underneath the basket and focused efforts on containing Taylor and Royster.
The result was a 2-10 showing through their first 12 attempts until a Shavar Richardson jumper broke a scoring drought lasting 7:19.
But with 3:08 to play in the first frame Florida Atlantic would regain the lead at 28-27, and not trail again.
The Red Wolves rallied to cut a 10 point Owl’s second half lead to just four with 7:35 remaining until back to back three pointers by Hughley pushed the lead to double digits once more.
“We’ve been working hard in practice. Coach always says 'we play how we practice'. I just release the ball and know that it’s going in. Those two shots were big, put us back up, and we kept the momentum going”, Hughley said.
Arkansas State’s leading scorer Brandon Reed, who averages 14.3 points per contest, finished with just eight on 2-13 shooting – a credit to the Owls defense.
FAU also capitalized on 13 ASU turnovers with 17 points, while snapping a four game win streak by the Red Wolves.
ASU was led by Rashad Allison’s 16 points.
Florida Atlantic has now won four games straight at FAU Arena and is 5-1 in their last six contests.
The Owls next hit the road to take on South Alabama (12-9, 4-5) this Thursday with hopes of avenging a 96-93 overtime loss at home on Jan. 2nd. The game will tip at 8:00 p.m.