The no-quit, history-making, legendary Florida Atlantic Owls are moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.
The East Region's No. 9 seed, the Florida Atlantic University men's basketball team, took down the No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson Knights in a slugfest by a 78-70 final score to advance to the NCAA Regionals. The Owls will play the No. 4 seed Tennessee in basketball's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. The Eastern Regional semifinals will take place on March 23.
"Hats off to FDU," said Head Coach Dusty May. "They were incredibly hard to prepare for and were such a tough matchup. Their scrappiness and physicality were exceptional. We just made enough plays to win. We settled in against their press and just had enough in us."
The Owls - who are making only their second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history - continue their incredible ride in the 2022-23 season, now standing at 33-3. The first-round win over Memphis was the Owls' first NCAA Tournament win in school history. Two days later, Florida Atlantic advances to the Sweet Sixteen in the mecca of basketball.
Johnell Davis had a game for the history books, tallying 27 points on 10-15 shooting, a career-high 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Davis (photo right) becomes the first player in NCAA Tournament history to rack up 25+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ assists, and 5+ steals since steals became an official stat in 1986.
The Owls and Knights went toe-to-toe throughout Sunday's ballgame, in a classic March Madness contest.
It was a gritty first-half battle, with neither team shooting over 35% in the first half, but the Owls maintained a lead all throughout.
Thanks to two triples by Brandon Weatherspoon, the Owls went a 10-0 run to take an 11-point lead with 6:19 to go in the first half. FDU slightly closed the gap, but the sweet sixteen-bound Owls held a 32-25 first half lead.
The Knights came charging back early in the second frame, having a lead for almost seven minutes.
Florida Atlantic is never truly out of it, however, and continued to fight to avoid letting the game get out of hand.
A clutch three-pointer by NCAA tournament hero Nick Boyd tied the game at 54 apiece, and in typical Davis form, a steal and fast break layup put the team ahead with eight minutes to play, a lead they never relinquished.
"It's the belief we've been in these situations before numerous times, and we found a way", said Davis. "And usually, it's in different ways. So absolutely, I think our guys believed, even when we were down seven points, I think we believed we were going to find a way."
The 2022-23 college basketball season began with very few on the national stage having FAU on their radar. Now, the Florida Atlantic Owls, winners of 33 games, are one of the last 16 teams standing in the entire NCAA.
"It's the belief we've been in these situations before numerous times, and we found a way". May said. "And usually, it's different ways. So absolutely, I think our guys believed, even when we were down seven points, I think they believed we were going to find a way."
- For the second game in a row, Vladislav Goldin kicked off scoring for the Owls, this time with a ferocious dunk
- Alijah Martin quickly followed with seven straight points without a miss, giving FAU an early 9-0 lead
- Goldin had another highlight slammer with 10:30 to go in the second frame
- Martin was second on the team with 14 points on the night
- Giancarlo Rosado made his first three shots to start 8-8 from the field in the NCAA tournament
- Rosado finished the night with seven points and four boards
- Florida Atlantic took a massive 15-4 advantage in fast break points
- The Owls won the assist battle 18-12
Florida Atlantic is next off to play at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Sweet Sixteen. Their opponent will be the No. 4 seed Tennessee Volunteers, set to tip off on Thursday at 9:00 PM.