Florida Atlantic (12-10, 8-3) had little trouble finding motivation when taking the court for tonight’s match-up against Florida International (7-17, 4-7).
Two storied figures roamed the sidelines in FAU’s Mike Jarvis, who has taken three teams to the post season, and FIU’s Isiah Thomas, who is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, and was Final Four participant as a player.
Calculated game promotions preceded the event, and were surrounded by a Fan buzz that has topped any game thus far this year.
The night began behind a season high crowd on hand (2,916).
Some say it’s a rivalry, in large part due to the short distance between the two schools, and some don’t.
But both coaches hope future meetings will be overshadowed by an increased level of play to help bolster the atmosphere and attraction.
What can be said about tonight’s triumph is that last season’s finale against the Panthers, in which FAU was embarrassed 80-53, was avenged thanks to a 106-88 drubbing.
The Owls, who shot a season best 60.7%, never trailed on the night, and have now won five straight.
FAU had a slow start initially, but that quickly changed into a 52-36 lead by halftime.
The Panthers mounted a rally in the second half, cutting the lead to nine with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. However, FAU returned favor with 11 unanswered points in large part thanks to two threes by Shavar Richardson.
“We fought our way back into it, but I thought their shot making ability was the key”, said Thomas. They were good; we’ve got to give the other team a lot of credit.”
There was no concern from the FAU bench over losing the game, but rather a chance to get deserved reserves into the game.
“We weren’t going to lose the game. To be able to get some of the guys who don’t get a chance to play in the game, whether it’s just a minute or two. That was my biggest concern”, Jarvis said.
Richardson scored 22 points and Sanchez Hughley added 19 as the Owls made a season-high 15 threes and saw six players post in double figures.
It was also a night marked by record settings.
Greg Gantt, who led the Owls with 25 points, set the record for most three pointers made by a freshman with 64. He surpasses the previous mark of 63 set by Jeff Cowans.
Alex Tucker dished out a new program record for assists in a game with 16.
“Last year, they came in or place and they beat us. We went down there and they just destroyed us. We weren’t going to let that happen this year. I did the easy part by getting my team mates the ball”, said Tucker.
FAU hopes to further the winning trek into the upcoming week as they embark on a tough road series which will begin Thursday at North Texas (13-8, 6-5). Game time is 8:00 p.m.