Davis and Martin star in Owls' win over Texas A&M
The 19th-ranked Florida Atlantic men's basketball team have secured a spot in the championship game of the ESPN Invitational, stunning the 12th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in a 96-89 upset on Friday afternoon in Orlando.
It was a historic win for FAU, making this the highest regular-season win they have had over a ranked opponent since beating the 11th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in 1998. It was also their first regular-season win over a ranked squad, while being ranked at the same time.
The biggest factor to the Owls emerging victorious today was their three-point shooting. Yesterday against Butler, they only made seven triples; they converted 16 shots from downtown against the Aggies' defense. Guards Johnell Davis (pictured via Bob Markey II) and Alijah Martin had their best performances to date this season, combining for 51 points on 18-34 shooting from the field.
"At this time last year, they didn't receive the type of attention they're getting now so this is a new goal for them as well," head coach Dusty May said about Davis and Martin.
"We're still figuring ourselves out as a group this year because as I said yesterday, we are not picking up on April 2nd right now. It's November and we've got to go through some things to become the best team we can be."
The game started out close between the two sides, until the Owls created some space following multiple three-pointers from Davis and Martin that ignited an 18-3 run throughout a span of three minutes in the first half.
Guard Jalen Gaffney got the start today following a strong display off the bench yesterday against Butler, as he continued to provide solid production for FAU. Once halftime came around, he had six points and three assists as he did well with his playmaking while having ball handling duties.
The Owls came out firing to begin the second half. They jumped out to an 18-point lead following a barrage of three-pointers from Gaffney, Davis, Martin, and guard Brandon Weatherspoon.
Texas A&M refused to go away, sparking a run of their own as they managed to cut FAU's lead down to four with six minutes left. Despite their efforts, the Owls pulled away in the end thanks to guard Bryan Greenlee. He came off the bench today as he scored 10 points in the final minutes while Martin, Davis, Weatherspoon, and center Vladislav Goldin assisted him in putting the Aggies out of reach.
Even though FAU got overwhelmed on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 41-23, they found other ways to gain an edge over the Aggies. They were persistent in making the right play to finish with 18 assists, they outscored the Aggies 23-6 in points off turnovers, and they forced Texas A&M to turn the ball over 12 times.
"Texas A&M, credit to them, their relentless approach on the glass was impressive, so today we had to find different ways to win and offset a couple of magnificent individual performances out of those guys," May stated.
Davis led the team in scoring with a season-high 26 points, three assists, and two rebounds on 9-15 shooting including six three-pointers. Martin finished with a season-high 25 points and seven rebounds to go along with five made triples, while Gaffney and Greenlee had 12 points and five assists each.
"I have just been trying to stay patient. Thanks to my teammates for always believing in me and getting me extra shots, because if I am feeling good, we are all going to feel good," Martin said.
The Owls move on to the championship round as they will either take on the Iowa State Cyclones or the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sunday, November 26th, at 1:00 PM on ESPN. Their contest for the right to play FAU for the title will tip-off at 5:30 PM on ESPN2.