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Owls deliver "impressive" effort for record crowd

Vlad Goldin won the opening tip Tuesday, sprinted right to the basket and stuffed home a 35-foot alley-oop from Nick Boyd. Just four seconds in, the Florida Atlantic-record crowd of 3,161 already had a pretty good idea that the 10th-ranked Owls would exceed expectations in their season home opener.

They did, and then some. The Owls swarmed Eastern Michigan 100-57. They defended and rebounded ferociously, pushed the tempo relentlessly and moved the ball decisively. It was all over long before Jalen Gaffney’s 28-foot 3-pointer off Bryan Greenlee’s (pictured via Bob Markey II) spot-on feed three seconds away from halftime opened a 51-28 lead.

In that half, FAU hit 58 percent of its shots overall and 43 percent of its three-pointers.

Statistically, in the second half the Owls were even better, hitting 68 percent overall and 64 percent of their three-pointers (7 of 11).

“The way our guys play this game, it’s impressive for a bunch of 18-to-22-year-olds,” Coach Dusty May said.

Overall, FAU recorded 25 assists—on 40 field goals—and just seven turnovers.

“And those weren’t assists like certain leagues give you, where you throw it inbounds, the guy dribbles up and hits a step-back three and they give you an assist,” May said. “Those were guys creating for their teammates, then the teammate makes an extra pass to get a great shot.”

Neither Greenlee nor Brandon Weatherspoon missed a shot. Weatherspoon (16 points) hit all six he took, including four 3s. Greenlee (12 point) took only four shots—all 3s—but nailed them.

The numbers for that pair that stood out most, though, were their plus-minuses, which measure the overall team scoring differential while each individual player is in the game. In only about 27 1/2 minutes, Greenlee was plus-35. Weatherspoon was right there with him—at plus-33 in just 19 1/2 minutes. The eight Owls that played the most all were at least plus-18.

Greenlee also played a key role in a first-half sequence that embodied the Owls’ overall effort. Eastern Michigan was racing down court after an FAU turnover. Greenlee ran down the play, knocked the ball loose, and saved it as he fell out of bounds—to start an FAU transition that ended with a Boyd-assisted Weatherspoon 3-pointer.

Four other Owls scored in double figures, led by Goldin with 19. The last two came on a high-low pass from Giancarlo Rosado, who spent a few experimental minutes playing alongside Goldin in the second half after alternating with him in the post all last season.

Rosado finished with 13 points, as did rotation newcomer Brenen Lorient—who began providing material for his season highlights video with a couple of spectacular dunks.

Boyd finished with 11, plus a team-high seven assists.

The most significant in-game adjustments required of the Owls were to their wardrobe. Some in the crowd may have wondered why a few Owls took off their jerseys during a first-half timeout to remove red T-shirts. According to an FAU spokesperson, the referees indicated the shirts did not match the red shade on the Owls’ new cream-colored jerseys and therefore were in violation of rules.

Outside of that, May said the Owls had to make sure they were calling out defensive coverages loud enough to be understood over the roar of the record crowd. That crowd included students who had camped out overnight for seats, a first at FAU but a scene familiar to May in his undergrad days at Indiana, where students routinely camped out before big games against rivals like Purdue and Ohio State. May and his staff visited he campers earlier in the day and surprised them with T-shirts.

“It was awesome. You see what sports can do for a student body as far as something that brings everyone together,” May said. “Because of sports and direction our university and athletic department is going, and our guys are contributing to that … It’s a big deal, but our guys deserve for it to be a big deal.”

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