FAU came back to take the lead in the second half after falling behind by double digits in the first, but was still defeated 79-76 by FIU in the opening game of Conference USA pod play.
With 52 seconds left and his team up two, FIU guard Antonio Daye drove right and converted a high-arching layup over FAU’s Karlis Silins with the shot clock expiring, stretching the FIU lead to four.
Daye’s bucket silenced the arena and FAU’s comeback bid.
“I thought we really battled in the second half, we competed and clawed back in, put ourselves in position to win the game,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “Then just made some shaky decisions, and just didn’t make the plays we needed to down the stretch.”
The absence of Xavian Stapleton late in the game was a big reason why FAU couldn’t maintain its lead.
After arguing with an official, Stapleton received his second technical foul, causing his ejection with 4:14 remaining and his team up 63-61. FAU’s offense fell apart in his absence.
“He’s been great for us down the stretch, he’s made big play after big play to keep us in games and give us a chance to win,” May said. “Yeah, we would’ve loved to have him on the floor for the last four minutes.”
Although the loss of Stapleton was a meaningful one, May disregarded it as being the sole reason his team fell. A stronger 40-minute effort could have prevented the Owls being in that situation in the first place.
“We didn’t play well enough to win, we didn’t play hard enough to win, and that’s on all of us, we have to do better. ” May said. “I’m not leaving the arena tonight thinking about the officials. This was on us.”
GameBrowser: FIU (17-11, 8-7) 79, FAU (16-12, 7-8) 76
Moving Forward: Forward Madiaw Niang snagged a team-high 10 rebounds, in addition to scoring six points. …Richardson Maitre was a force defensively, notching two steals and six rebounds. …Karlis Silins scored 13 points on 4-7 shooting, including 4-4 from the charity stripe.
Falling Backward: Anthony Adger missed 14 of his 17 shots, including 1-8 from deep. …After hitting his first two shots, Kevaughn Ellis missed his final six in a 2-8 shooting effort. …FAU shot a mere 25 percent from the field in the first half.
Key Stat: 18 – Turnovers FAU committed, while managing only 12 assists.
Up Next: FAU heads to Denton to battle North Texas, which owns the second best record (20-7) in C-USA. Tip-off on Thursday is slated for 8 p.m.