BOCA RATON – On a Friday morning in Boca Raton, the remains of a hangover were still present in The Burrow.
But unlike the bedroom of a frat house or a dorm, this hangover was well-earned.
Three days after upsetting the Ohio State Buckeyes 79-77 in Columbus, FAU coach Michael Curry and his players didn’t try to hide the fact they were still enjoying one of the biggest wins in program history.
“It’s still a feeling that’s in us but we had to come back to reality and get back to work,” freshman forward Jailyn Ingram said after Friday’s practice.
Curry shared similar sentiments, but cracked a smile over the game that broke the Owls’ season-long road/neutral site losing streak.
“[Thursday], we were terrible so we kind of had that big win hangover effect,” the third-year coach laughed. “We had a great spirited practice this morning and when we had to let them know right away, we told them, ‘just so you know, the team that’s the defending champion of our conference [Middle Tennessee] smacked Vanderbilt by 30 yesterday so they ain’t relinquishing this league anytime soon.’”
If the Owls play teams in Conference USA the way they did Ohio State, then taking control of the league may not be a far-fetched idea. FAU, which hadn’t even beaten a Big Ten team, outscored the Buckeyes 48-45 in the final 25 minutes and held Thad Matta’s team to only 20 percent shooting from three-point range.
Four of Curry’s starters scored in double digits, with sixth man Adonis Filer leading all scorers with 23 points.
But, it’s the repeated mistakes that cost them against UT-Martin and Hofstra which nearly resulted in a third consecutive loss. For all of the good they did defensively, Curry’s team had to work around 12 turnovers and seven missed free throws on the offensive end..
On the season, FAU is shooting .673 percent from the line, tied for 226th in the nation.
“As we told them, you don’t need to play a perfect game to win,” Curry said. “So many times, you think you gotta play perfect, but you just gotta keep playing, keep trying to score – try to score 80 points – and be really solid and good defensively throughout and you’ll find yourself in a ballgame.”
The hangover feeling was immediate after the game, as Curry said that the team – which normally will watch the a video of the game once following its conclusion – did it twice to savor the winning feeling.
The key to this hangover isn’t coffee or Advil, though. As Ingram admitted, it’s working on some of the focus and attitude issues that were apparent in the losses to UT-Martin and Hofstra.
“‘(The win) sends a message that we need to be more consistent,” Ingram said. “I feel like we had a different lock-in against Ohio State which led us to a victory but, overall, we need to be consistent.”
- After the Owls’ blowout win over Edward Waters last month, Curry made it clear that the team’s ‘kill’ system – three defensive consecutive stops with no fouls – was going to be vital when it came to close games. The Owls may have only recorded five kills on Tuesday night instead of the seven they try for, but one less kill and that win is a potential loss. It’s positive to see that a month into the season, the players are still buying into the kill philosophy.
- Curry confirmed on Friday that junior guard Justin Massey, who has missed all of the season so far in compliance with NCAA transfer regulations (Massey becomes eligible immediately after his fall semester – or his last test – concludes), sooner rather than later. Massey, who transferred back to FAU after spending part of last season with Brown, started 11 games for the Owls in 2014-15 and averaged 7.5 points a night. Curry did not rule out Massey for Friday night at Miami, though he did note that the decision is not up to him, but the Registrar’s Office. Expect Massey back, at the latest, before the start of the new year.
- Some fans seemed to be up in arms on social media about Curry not giving Adonis Filer the final shot against the Buckeyes, but the call to let Nick Rutherford handle the ball was the right one. Filer had similar chances against UT-Martin to make a play late and while the Clemson transfer did sink a bucket in that game, he also looked lost on some of the final possessions. Curry went for a risk by giving the ball to Rutherford and though it may not have been the popular pick, the risk worked. Look for Filer to still get chances late in games, however, as one no-shot doesn’t mean much.
Conference Counterparts: Middle Tennessee again ranks at the top of the C-USA standings with a 9-1 overall record. Center Ronald Delph currently stands in second on C-USA’s rebounding leader board with 9.5 a game, while Rutherford is third in assists per night with 6.0.
Game of the Week: Yet again, FAU plays only once this week, but the Owls won’t have to travel out of the Sunshine State this time. The Owls will instead take the hour (or three, depending on traffic) drive south to Coral Gables for a Friday showdown with the Hurricanes at 7 p.m.