BOCA RATON – Four days before Christmas, shortly after the FAU defeated Webber International, Michael Curry had a gift for his team.
In fact, Curry had several gifts for the now 4-6 Owls after their 77-57 victory over the Warriors, one of which was a blunt assessment about the team’s recent rust.
“We didn’t have a good rhythm against Miami, either – we were kind of rusty,” Curry said after the team moved to 3-1 at home. “I think the biggest thing right now is just getting back to discipline; we want to force turnovers and when we don’t have to force them, to just stay disciplined and have patience.”
While the Owls are 4-3 since returning to the mainland after a season-starting trip to Hawaii, the bizarre scheduling that had FAU playing only three times from December 6 to December 22nd has left many of the players rusty – and sometimes, ill-prepared – when they do finally return to action.
When FAU traveled to Miami Gardens for a showdown with the Hurricanes on December 16, the rust of not playing since their jubilant upset of Ohio State ten days earlier resulted in a blowout 77-56 loss. After the first 20 minutes, Curry’s team was down 39-24, enough of a deficit on the road that a strong second half couldn’t change things.
“One of the things that we’ve talked about and tried to do is the work the game for the entire 40 minutes. We want to wear teams down because we think we have decent depth,” Curry said. “The Miami game, they made us work so hard – again, they moved the ball without taking quick shots – and we didn’t match their discipline deep into the shot clock offensively and defensively.”
Curry then attributed FAU’s latest home victory over Webber International to improvements in tempo and awareness.
“We were better today because they played a controlled game and it was a little different because we played teams prior to that – Ohio State, Hofstra, UT-Martin – that shot the ball fast and played fast,” Curry explained. “Now, you’re playing a team who plays deep into the shot clock so you have to change gears with that.”
FAU had five days off between the Miami and Webber games, their quickest turnaround since a three day break between Hofstra and Ohio State.
Since returning to the mainland, the Owls have only had two instances where they’ve had less than a full week between games; the first two home games against Edward Waters (November 20) and Hofstra (November 22) were the other two.
Curry did address the scheduling shortly after the final buzzer against Webber, but also was quick to note that the massive amount of time between games isn’t only a problem that the Owls have.
“It’s difficult because originally, we were going to play on the 20th, but the Boca Bowl was on the 20th,” Curry said. “So scheduling around that a little bit, as we finished – Miami had the same amount of days off before the game as we did and they looked sharper than us.”
As Conference-USA play begins Saturday against Western Kentucky, the days of long breaks between games are over indefinitely. The longest break FAU is set to have in the coming months is a full week between a January 26 drive to FIU and a February 2 showdown with Charlotte.
Now, as the Owls prepare for their final non-conference game of the regular season, Curry is hoping that the rust can be shaken off against Florida Gulf Coast.
“They’re a tournament team – they play good, they have some great athletes and really want to get into transition – so we want to play them at that time so that we can go and really get ready coming out of the break to lock in,” Curry said. “We were flat last year against UT-Martin but I think we got different guys we can go to.”
- Curry said in his Wednesday press conference that the team would indeed have Christmas off before returning on the 26th, but there would be an earlier practice today because some players are coming back to Florida around midday.
- Another reason the Owls struggled at Miami and against Webber, according to Curry, is that those games came immediately following exams. FAU may try to counter that issue next season with a game at either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest – two teams the Owls are currently in scheduling discussions with. “If we fall flat maybe we fall flat in a guarantee game not in a home game,” Curry said.
- With double-digit scoring outings in three of his past four games, sophomore forward Jeantal Cylla could become a dangerous threat in conference play. If one takes Cylla’s 0-3 performance from the field against Miami out of the equation, the Lake Worth product made 58% percent of his shots against Hofstra, Ohio State, and Webber. Cylla also recorded his first double-double of the year in Wednesday’s win, putting up 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Conference Counterparts: Someone has finally caught up to Middle-Tennessee, as both the Blue Raiders and the Rice Owls are tied with a 10-3 record.
Working Women: Rice is also the top C-USA team in women’s basketball with a 9-2 mark. Also having played 11 games, 4-7 FAU will start conference play Friday against Western Kentucky and won’t be back in Boca until January 12 against USTA.
Game of the Week: Some may be tempted to put the FGCU game here because of its 9-5 record, but it’s always hard to go against the start of conference play. Western Kentucky comes to The Burrow on New Year’s Eve, bringing with them the player with the best name in C-USA basketball – University of Hartford transfer Pancake Thomas.