BOCA RATON — During the early highs of FAU’s season, center Ronald Delph seemed to be the constant on an Owls team that started 4-6.
Two months later, Delph has gone from the big man on the floor to the giant coming off the bench.
As part of last week’s lineup changes, FAU coach Michael Curry switched Delph to the second unit – he specified was not a demotion – and moved William Pfister into the starting center role.
“You look at a lot of our games that have been close and I think Hawaii was the only one that Ronald played well and we didn’t win,” Curry said. “The other ones, he didn’t play as well and that’s the difference between not being over a .500 team right now.”
In his first game as part of the second unit, Delph had 10 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of play in the Owls’ Thursday night win FIU. Delph and Adonis Filer, the two players who went from the starting lineup to the bench, combined for 28 points of 11-of-18 shooting from the field.
For only the second time in Conference USA play and the third time since the Nov. 29 loss to UT-Martin, Delph scored in double-digits. Curry had indicated that wanting to get Delph back into a comfortable state on offense was part of why he moved the Winter Haven product to the bench.
Playing with the second unit, Curry hopes, should lead to more Delph touches in the post.
One game is obviously too small of a sample size, but Delph performed better as part of the second unit. Thursday night was the first time this season that Delph didn’t miss a single shot, going a perfect 5-5 from the field.
Delph isn’t the only player who will spend the next few weeks searching for a role, as Curry indicated that Filer and Jailyn Ingram will be evaluated. Specifically, the coaching staff will be looking at the freshman forward to see if he’s someone that the team can make a focal point in the future.
As for Filer, Curry seems to already have an idea of the senior guard’s role – and barring an injury to Nick Rutherford, it looks like Filer will be staying in the sixth man slot for good.
“[Filer] liked being featured and that’s what [the sixth man] role did for him,” Curry said. “It helps him be featured and it helps Ronald be featured where we can get more offense out of him. Hopefully, it keeps Ron from having to play the full game against a front-line center and pick up foul trouble.”
If the Owls want to have their first winning streak since defeating Edward Waters and the University of South Florida in late November, they’ll need the results that game one of the new-look lineup produced. The more games FAU wins, the more Curry and the coaching staff will see about their players’ new roles.
- It’s probably a bit too early to think about recruiting, but if Nick Rutherford continues to struggle and be a non-factor on the floor, FAU may want to turn their attention to recruiting a new point guard. Rutherford is tied for second on the team in scoring with 9.4 points a night, but the Texas product will too often have nights where he’ll shoot 3-for-11 or 4-for-13 with four turnovers. Filer is going to be gone next year and Curry confirmed that guard Devorious Brown is more of a two-guard, so another impact player that can potentially challenge Rutherford for the starting role is needed – if for no other reason than depth.
- Something that Curry said he wants to see over these next few weeks is the emergence of a ‘third guy’ who can become an offensive threat. “If you got three guys you can play through, it’s guys that teams have to double team and then you can get other guys shots. I think guys like it like that,” Curry said. With Filer an Deplp on the second unit, sophomore guard Justin Massey could become that ‘third guy.’
- With 10 games left on the schedule before the Conference USA tournament in March, FAU will need to do two things to play games after its March 4th showdown with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro: avoid losing games to inferior teams – which the Owls did by sweeping FIU – and getting more from behind the arc. Since conference play began, only two Owls have a three-point shooting percentage of .300 or higher: Frank Booker is making three of every 10 threes and Gerdarius Troutman has a .469 shooting percentage. FAU will be fine if Troutman continues to be a sniper, but shooting .276 as a team over the past month is unacceptable.
Conference Counterparts: At 9-0 in C-USA play, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders remain unstoppable. Interestingly enough, no individual MTSU player ranks in the top five when it comes to scoring, rebounds, assists, or blocks per game. Marshall’s Jon Elmore continues to lead the conference in scoring per game (19.6, where he’s tied with Charlotte’s Jon Davis) and assists per game (6.3). FIU’s Michael Kessens leads C-USA with 9.3 boards per game and UAB’s William Lee is atop the block per game board with 2.5.
Working Women: The FAU women’s basketball team took a 65-60 loss to FIU on Thursday night and fell to 4-15 on the year. Though the women have yet to win in Conference USA play, more and more players are breaking out and making games close. Freshman Julia Jenike made her eighth consecutive start and put up a career-high 14 points, also adding three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Malia Kency also had a career night against the Panthers, grabbing nine rebounds and leading the team with 15 points. FAU will host Charlotte on Thursday night at 7 p.m. and Old Dominion on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Game of the Week: FAU needs to build off last week’s win over FIU and Thursday night’s match-up against Charlotte (4-5, 10-10) is a good place to start. In what will be the second outing of the new-look lineup, fans will want to keep an eye on William Pfister and his current streak of going three straight games without fouling out.