BOCA RATON — When the New York Giants went on their Super Bowl run nearly a decade ago, the team was hailed as road warriors after upsetting each of their opponents either in away or neutral-site games.
The FAU men’s basketball team won’t ever be playing in a Super Bowl, but the Owls are at least making their own case for the ‘Road Warriors’ title.
Embarking on a three-game road trip that could potentially have been the final nail in FAU’s once promising season, the Owls responded with heart and hustle. After beginning the stretch with a dominant victory over FIU, Michael Curry’s team had a full week off before traveling to Charlotte and narrowly escaping North Carolina with a 77-75 win.
Saturday night, Justin Massey nailed a three-pointer with 49 seconds left to put the finishing touches on a comeback that began with the Owls down 15 in the second half. Despite Ronald Delph and William Pfister both fouling out, FAU made shot after shot – with Massey having 16 of his 18 in the final 20 minutes – to steal a 65-61 game away from the Monarchs.
The final result? A much-needed three-game sweep that better positions FAU for Conference USA tournament.
“We believe in ourselves,” Massey said. “Maybe not many others do, but we believe that with the work we’ve been putting in and the group we have together that we can do special things.”
When FAU hits the road, they can indeed do special things. On the campaign, FAU is 4-5 in true road games – though the team did lose all three games of their season-opening trip to Hawaii. Their first road win came in the overtime thriller against Ohio State at the start of December.
Despite the 4-8 overall record when away from The Burrow, the majority of the road/neutral-site games have been far from blowouts. Factoring in the first three games that took place in Hawaii, FAU games played away from The Burrow have been decided by an average of six points.
If the loss to Miami (20 points) and the win over FIU (18 points) are removed, the difference of the final score shrinks to three points. When the Owls are home, the average difference in the final score is 16.3 points per game and FAU is only 4-8 in those games.
After FAU lost against Marshall earlier in the season, Curry mused about why the team seemed to play better on the road than home and attributed it to FAU being able to feed off the opponents’ crowds.
With four road games left – two of which, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss, will come later this month before FAU travels to UAB and Middle Tennessee to begin March – two more road victories would at least ensure a 10-win season for the Owls.
- Recent games, especially Saturday’s win over Old Dominion, are showing that the officials are going to call close plays as fouls. FAU had 24 total fouls – with Delph and Pfister each fouling out – and Old Dominion had 19. With how close games have been lately, now would be the time for FAU to work on not being so foul happy so they can keep players on the court.
- Since Curry’s lineup change two weeks ago, one of the players who’s benefited most was someone who didn’t switch units. Freshman forward Jailyn Ingram, who had been in a prolonged slump, is averaging 10.7 points on .560 shooting with 5.3 rebounds in his past three games. With a winnable game against C-USA cellar dweller North Texas coming up Thursday, Ingram should be in line for another strong game.
- William Pfister’s five-game streak without fouling out finally ended on Saturday. With the way Ronald Delph is playing in the second unit, however, Pfister should remain as the starting center for the time being. Despite Delph fouling out on Saturday, the junior has adjusted well to the second unit and, given Curry’s reasoning for moving Delph to the second unit, FAU may not want to make a change yet.
- With two more wins on the season, FAU will have its first double-digit wins season in the Michael Curry era. A third win would give the team 11 wins for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The eight wins the Owls currently own match last season’s total for the year.
Conference Counterparts: Middle Tennessee continues to lead Conference USA, though their perfect 10-0 record ended with a loss to the surprising UTEP Miners. After starting their season off slowly, UTEP has won six of its last seven to rank fifth in C-USA. If FAU can beat North Texas and Rice this week, they could potentially jump into the top seven – or even higher, depending on how the rest of the conference’s higher powers fare.
Working Women: The FAU women’s team remains winless on the season in conference play, though Sasha Cedeno continues to impress on the floor. Cedeno led the team with 20 points in Saturday’s loss to Old Dominion. FAU will travel for C-USA games against North Texas and Rice this week.
Game of the Week: North Texas started the season with a 6-6 record. They’re 0-10 since conference play began and remain on an 11 game losing streak. When the Mean Green come to town on Thursday night, this is a game that the Owls should – and potentially need to – run away with, especially with red hot Louisiana Tech approaching on the schedule.