Florida Atlantic (4-4) traveled through a rainstorm on their way into Starkville, MS tonight while in the midst of a three game losing streak.
But they will leave under sunny skies, thanks to a 61-59 win over Mississippi State (4-1), with a hefty $80k paycheck to boot.
“We’re blessed, there’s no other way to describe it”, said Coach Mike Jarvis. “I think the kids got an incredibly well deserved victory.”
Size and speed overwhelmed the Owls early as the Bulldogs raced out to a 13-3 lead, eventually going up by as many as 13 with under 4:00 minutes to play in the first half.
However, FAU hunkered down to finish on a 9-2 run, as Shavar Richardson drained a three at the buzzer, and trailed 35-29 at intermission.
“Shavar came in and was a settling influence”, Jarvis said. “Anytime you make a basket at the end of the half, and you’ve got a little momentum going, I think that made a huge difference.”
With post play being trouble spot lately for Florida Atlantic, tonight would be a game changer. FAU registered 38 points in the paint to just 30 by a much larger Bulldog counterpart.
Kore White had a season high 18 points, and Brett Royster tallied his best performance on the year with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and four blocks.
“They were both a really big part of the victory, they got some huge rebounds, and some huge baskets”, said Jarvis. “We’ve got a got inside game if we just use it.”
Trailing 38-45 with 12:12 to play Royster flushed two dunks in a 10-0 spurt that put the Owls on top 48-45.
MSU would grab the lead once more, but missed four free throws down the stretch, including game tying efforts, as FAU pulled away for the win.
The Bulldogs, who had been hot from long distance heading into the contest, were held to a season low 3-of-16 (18.8%) on the night.
Ravern Johnson paced MSU with 18 points.
“Give Florida Atlantic credit,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "They made plays down the stretch to be able to pull out the win.”
Florida Atlantic next plays host to South Florida on Saturday at 8:00p.m. The Owls will look to avenge a 78-58 loss to the Bulls in 2009.