FAU picked an improbable time to finally put the finishing touches on a basketball game.
Nick Rutherford dribbled away some clock, crossed over to penetrate the lane, floated over a defender and drained a runner off the glass with 1 second remaining in overtime to give FAU a 79-77 overtime victory over Ohio St (7-2).
“It’s crazy man,” Rutherford told Ken LaVicka on ESPN West Palm’s postgame show. “I waited a long time for this moment here. I just thank coach for trusting me. I thank my teammates for trusting me. They put the ball in my hands and I made the best play possible.”
With Ohio St. center Travis Thompson having fouled out a little more than a minute prior, Rutherford, the Owls’ point guard, didn’t have to worry about getting his shot blocked.
“I believe they thought I was going to come into the lane and pass,” he said. “The lane was pretty open. We had to get one shot and it was pretty open so I just went by (the defender) and put it off the window.”
The Owls knocked away the Buckeyes’ last-chance inbound pass, then celebrated on Ohio St.’s home court.
“It kind of sounds cliché, but we knew we could come in here and make a huge statement and get a win here on the road,” Rutherford said. “We made a huge statement tonight.”
Hitting the game winner provided a magical end to what started as a poor night for Rutherford.
The Owls’ top playmaker scored all 11 of his points in the second half or overtime after heeding the advice of coach Michael Curry.
“Coach Curry told me to trust my jump shot,” said Rutherford, who also grabbed nine rebounds. “I couldn’t get all the way to the basket. I wasn’t really getting calls.”
After a close first half, FAU (3-5) appeared to be on the verge of being blown out when the Buckeyes opened a 58-47 lead, but the Owls responded with a 14-0 run to get right back into the game.
Two free throws from Thompson pulled the Buckeyes even with the Owls at 71 with 14 seconds remaining. FAU was unable to get a shot off in the closing seconds because Jailyn Ingram dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.
The Owls, though, clamped down on defense and didn’t let the Buckeyes get off a potential game-winning shot.
FAU fell behind by four in the opening minutes of the overtime period but held the Buckeyes scoreless over the final 2 minutes to set up Rutherford’s heroics.
The victory ended FAU’s two-game losing streak. In both of those games the Owls held late leads only to lose in the final minute.
“In previous games and those close losses we kind of panicked – we didn’t know what to do,” Rutherford said. “[Against Ohio St.] the coaches knew what to do. The players knew exactly what to do. All our players came together and we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this win.’”
Senior Adonis Filer came off the bench to lead FAU with a career-high 23 points.
“That’s our veteran leader,” Rutherford said. “We needed that. He showed up big the whole game and we really needed that. He was our X-factor today.”
GameBrowser: FAU (3-5) 79, Ohio St. (7-2) 77 OT
Moving Forward: FAU became only the fifth of 123 unranked, non-conference opponents to defeat Ohio St. during the Thad Matta era. …Guard Frank Booker emerged from his shooting slump to score 15 points. He also had a key steal late in the game. …Jeantal Cylla went 7-for-8 from the line en route to 15 points.
Moving Backward: FAU athletic director Par Chun, a former Ohio St. assistant athletic director, had been looking forward to a return to Columbus but didn’t make the trip. Unfortunate time to interview potential football coaches… …Center Ronald Delph had his hands full all night, scoring only two points before fouling out late. Delph still managed to grab 10 rebounds. …Gedarious Troutman missed all three of his shots, going scoreless on the night.
Key Stat: 10 – three-pointers made by the Owls compared to only four by the Buckeyes. FAU shot 40 percent from behind the arc on the night.
Up Next: The Owls get a bit of a break to study for – and take – final exams before returning to the hardcourt on Dec. 16 at Miami.