FAU’s basketball season came to a close with a dismal loss to Marshall in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.
In our final Burrow Bits of the year, now seems like a perfect time to review the season in a similar fashion that we did with football: superlatives. Though the superlative categories won’t be as in-depth and exhaustive as they were with football, make no mistake: there’s plenty from this past FAU season to discuss.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Some will point to Nick Rutherford being the Player of the Year after he led the team in assists and hit the game-winning shot against Ohio State, but when FAU really needed that one player to step up and close out games late in the year, it was Gerdarius Troutman. By no means was Troutman the type of elite player in Conference USA that a William Lee or a Reggie Upshaw was, but the sniper’s presence was definitely felt in conference play, where he shot .467 from behind the arc and averaged 12.1 points a night.
Without Troutman, FAU very well could have spent the the C-USA tournament at home. With Adonis Filer among the seniors leaving, the pressure will be on Troutman next year to expand on his game – in the grand scheme of things, Troutman is really only a sniper right now – and become the face of the team that Filer became this past season.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The frontcourt woes. While Ronald Delph was consistent in the season’s first few weeks and a constant double-double threat, things began to fall apart for him once Conference USA play started. With Delph being a non-factor and William Pfister struggling to do much of anything that wasn’t fouling out, the frontcourt game became one that the opposing team would nearly always win.
Things weren’t helped by the fact that Delph and Pfister were really the only two true big men on the team, as Jailyn Ingram and Jeantal Cylla – both of whom alternated at the power forward position – each were too undersized (Ingram is 6’7 and Cylla is 6’6) to play the five. Connor Shorten, who was expected to play a reserve role as that third big man, left the team before the season started – and left Michael Curry’s team in trouble when Delph and Pfister hit foul trouble.
MOMENT OF THE YEAR: What else would be here but FAU going into Columbus and taking down Ohio State 79-77 in overtime? Adonis Filer led the way with 23 points, Nick Rutherford sank a floater in the closing seconds, and the Owls recorded what many have called the biggest win in program history.
Honorable mention has to go to the blackout prior to the FAU-Middle Tennessee game on January 21, where tip-off was delayed 20 minutes because of a power outage. That was probably a sign of things to come, as FAU would lose that game 86-57.
BEST GAME BY A PLAYER: What was possibly the true, lone bright spot following Ohio State win was a three-game winning streak against FIU, Charlotte, and Old Dominion after Curry made several changes to his lineups. Against Old Dominion in a game where the Owls outscored the Monarchs 46-34 in the second half, Justin Massey caught fire and scored 16 of his 18 points in the final 20 minutes. With 49 seconds left, Massey nailed a three-pointer to give FAU the lead and the win.
Massey may not have had a record-breaking performance or the type of jaw-dropping, audience captivating outing that Frank Booker or Gerdarius Troutman had against Middle Tennessee and UAB respectively, but it was a game that FAU needed. Given the team’s 2-6 finish down the stretch, this was a win that made FAU a C-USA tournament qualifier.
Conference Counterparts: After winning Conference USA, Middle Tennessee is a No. 12 seed and will play the No. 5 Minnesota Gophers in the South Region on Thursday.