“To win in a conference [tournament] setting, to win to give you some confidence going forward, it brings a lot of different things to the table when you are able to win,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “On the flip side, if we do lose then it’s extra motivation going into the off-season.”
FAU has only won one a Conference USA tournament game, that coming in 2016 when, because Southern Miss self-imposed a postseason ban, C-USA elected to hold what amounted to a “play-in” game between the league’s two worst teams, FAU and UTSA.
The No. 9-seeded Owls enter this year’s tournament having lost consecutive games – including one to No. 8-seed La. Tech – and three of their last four. Only once this season did the Owls have a streak of more than two consecutive losses – that coming when FAU dropped four in a row in mid January.
“Our guys all year bounced back from adversity and focused on the next game,” May said. “We’ll continue to do so.”
May and Conference USA Co-Sixth Man of the Year Xavian Stapleton are plenty familiar with La. Tech. As an assistant coach there May recruited Stapleton to Ruston, La. Now Stapleton will be trying to avoid playing what is potentially his final collegiate game against his original school.
Stapleton and May defeated the Bulldogs 69-61 on Jan. 31 behind 14 points from Anthony Adger. On Wednesday, with the Bulldogs doubling the Owls in the post more often than they did in the first matchup, FAU fell to La. Tech 72-69.
“Against Louisiana Tech we didn’t feel like we played very well,” May said of the loss.
With a win in Wednesday’s game, which tips off at 7 p.m. in Frisco, Tex., FAU would advance to the second round of the Conference USA tournament for the first time. The Owls’ reward would be a Thursday game against tournament top seed Old Dominion, which FAU defeated at The Burrow in the lone meeting between the two schools this year.
“We’ve got a good spirit about us,” May said following Tuesday’s practice. “We looked excited to play.”
A loss Wednesday wouldn’t necessarily end FAU’s season. Assured of finishing the year with a winning record for the first time since 2011, the Owls have already been contacted by the CBI and CIT postseason tournaments about extending their season.
Should FAU win four games over the next four days, they automatically extend their season with an NCAA Tournament invitation. It would be the second berth in program history – the other coming in 2002.
But first FAU will try to take the season series from La. Tech.
“I just think the personality of our team, we responded well to teams that have beaten us already,” May said.