FAU Burns Blazers to Punch Ticket to The Big Dance
Top-seeded Florida Atlantic captured its first Conference USA Basketball Championship title with a commanding 78-56 win over No. 3 UAB on Saturday night in the final contest of the 2023 C-USA Basketball Championships presented by TotalCare.
Florida Atlantic continues its incredible 2022-23 season, which was already easily the greatest in program history. The Owls' record now stands at 31-3 and adds another banner to its resume.
The Owls also captured the regular season Conference USA Championship in addition to the tournament title, another program first in the 10-year history as a member of C-USA.
“We're proud to represent all those players who wore a Florida Atlantic uniform before these guys and the coaches that walked the sideline", said Head Coach Dusty May. "It's very difficult to do what these guys just did, and a lot of building blocks and foundation has to be laid for this to happen. So we're grateful for our fanbase, our student body, it was amazing to watch them rally around our guys. And it wasn't just the wins; it was the way they played, the way they carried themselves, and it's how they were the entire season. So very proud.”
Sophomore guard Alijah Martin was named the tournament MVP after he capped off his week with 30 points in Saturday's contest, the most by an individual in a C-USA Basketball Championship final. He also pulled down a season-high 11 rebounds to tally his first double-double on the year. Martin shot 12-19 from the field and 5-10 from three-point range.
"Can't describe it honestly, said Martin. "Hats off to UAB, they gave us a sour taste in our mouths last season which is credit to all of the work we put in."
After starting 4-13 from the field, the Owls sank six-straight attempts to build a 25-14 lead. FAU closed the half shooting 14-21 (.667). Johnell Davis, who finished with 18 points on 6-9 shooting, converted his last four shots and accounted for the Owls’ final six points of the half.
Despite FAU’s shooting cooling off in the second half, the Owls’ defense stood tall to prevent the Blazers from mounting a comeback as UAB shot just 3-13 from beyond the arc in the second half. The Blazers finished the game with a 19.2 percent clip (5-26) from long range.
“Our guys were locked into the scouting report, they were beating us to the punch with our questions", May said "I don't think they missed a question all day yesterday or this morning with the scout. They were focused, they were determined, and when you have five guys that connected on the court covering for each other and playing with 100% energy and effort, this is the result.”
FAU secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history (2001-02) and will learn their seed and opponent in the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Selection Show at 6:00 PM Sunday evening on CBS. Florida Atlantic is hosting a watch party in the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena that is open to the public, beginning at 5:00 PM.
2023 C-USA Men’s Basketball All-Tournament Team
Alijah Martin, FAU (MVP)
Johnell Davis, FAU
Jordan Walker, UAB
Tylor Perry, UNT
DeAndre Dishman, MTSU