Every basketball program begins each season with dreams of reaching The Big Dance. Never in program history had FAU realized those dreams. Then came the 2001-02 season, which concluded with a trip to Greenville, S. C. and a game of national attention.
Having entered the Top 10 in our countdown of the Top 25 FAU Games Ever Played, we’ve changed the format a bit. We’ll delve a little deeper into each game and implications on FAU’s athletic department. We’ve also asked some guest contributors to provide their thoughts on the games and the rankings.
No. 6: FAU Game Ever Played
Alabama 86, FAU Basketball 78 (NCAA Tournament, March 14, 2002)
There wasn’t much of a reason to expect this game to ever happen. Two years prior, Sidney Green’s first season as coach, the Owls won only twice. FAU won seven games the following year and entered the 2002 Atlantic Sun Tournament as the No. 3 seed.
Richard William’s free throw with 6 seconds remaining gave FAU a 76-75 lead over Georgia St. in the title game, and the Owls survived a late Panthers’ push. FAU went dancing for the first – and only – time in program history.
The NCAA placed FAU as its No. 15 seed in Greenville, S. C., where it would tip off against No. 2-seed Alabama in the opening round.
FAU appeared outclassed on the national stage. The Owls trailed 30-19 midway through the first half before finding their game, racing back to take a 40-38 halftime lead.
The Owls showed they belonged. They were still tied with the Crimson Tide at 61 with a little over 8 minutes remaining when Rod Grizzard’s three-pointers launched Alabama on a 10-0 run that effectively put the game out of reach. FAU pulled back to within single digits, but never truly threatened to pull off a late upset.
Earnest Crumbley led FAU with 18 points. Raheim Brown added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite the loss, FAU acquitted itself well in front of a national TV audience. The Owls, however, have never been able to recapture that glory.
Owl Pride – Mark Noll, Owner, It’s Owl Time.
Having grown up in Indiana, I always had a love for basketball. So when FAU (my alma mater) made it to March Madness in 2002, it was a huge sense of pride for me. I remember leaving work early – I was a corporate sales account rep at the time – to go home and watch the game on TV. It was an afternoon game. It was an unbelievable feeling when FAU was up on Alabama at the half. Eventually FAU lost by 8 but it felt like basketball was on the rise. At the time, we didn’t realize how special that trip would become and that we wouldn’t make it back again in the next 16 seasons.
Previous FAU Top 25 Game Rankings
FAU’s Best Games Ever (25-21)
FAU’s Best Games Ever (20-16)
FAU’s Best Games Ever (15-11)
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 10 – Carolina Comeback
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 9 – Boca Bowl Blowout
FAU’s Best Game Ever: No. 8 – Burrow Bash
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 7 – The Big, Easy Win
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 6 – Dancing Days