The Owls and Panthers play each other twice in a span of four days – in Boca Raton later today, Miami on Saturday. But with a first-year coach in Dusty May and a new-look roster, there isn’t much personal experience of the rivalry from the Owls’ perspective.
May expects his young players to learn exactly how much these games mean once they hit the court.
“I don’t think you can really understand the magnitude of anything until you experience it,” May said of the increased intensity of rivalry games. “We’ll know the first couple minutes of the game and then we have to adjust to it. And the experienced guys know, but the freshmen probably don’t understand it.”
One of those experienced players is center Karlis Silins, who played at Ole Miss last season before transferring to FAU. Mississippi State was Silins’ enemy during his time as a Rebel.
The 6-foot-11 big man is excited to find a new combatant in FIU.
“Obviously it’s on a different level but I feel like the mindset is still the same,” Silins said.
While May admitted playing the same team twice in one week is “odd,” there are benefits to it. Adjustments can be made after the first game that can be directly applied to the contest three days following.
That being said, his view of the peculiarly scheduled week will be result-based to say the least.
“If we win both of them I love it, if we lose them I hate it,” May said with a hearty laugh.
Season-ending injuries to Jailyn Ingram and Jaylen Sebree, and minor injuries to Silins and Xavian Stapleton made depth an issue for FAU. May often shuffles his rotation on the day of games upon learning who’s available and who’s not.
That’s why any coy gameplanning or hiding schemes between Wednesday and Saturday is not an option for the Owls.
“No, we don’t have enough bullets in the chamber to hold anything back. We’re unloading on Wednesday and then we’re going to unload again on Saturday.”
Moving the basketball and playing unselfishly has been critical for FAU’s offensive survival through a slew of injuries. FAU is one of only seven teams nationally to have had six different players score at least 20 points in a single game – Anthony Adger, Simeon Lepichev, Michael Forrest, Jaylen Sebree, Ingram and Sebree. Georgia St., Tennessee Tech, North Texas, Georgetown, Louisiana-Lafayette and Northeastern are the other six teams.
FEAR THE BEARD
FIU guard Brian Beard Jr. has the fourth best scoring average in C-USA – 19.4. He also has May’s admiration and attention heading into this week. “Beard is probably my favorite guard to watch in the league, because of his intelligence and the way he plays the game,” May said.. “Very, very crafty, great passer, great scorer – just a dynamic guard. He’s going to be a tough matchup for us.”
HELP ON THE WAY</span
Starting forward Madiaw Niang has been cleared to play on Wednesday and will return to the court, May said. Niang missed the Owls’ previous to games after injuring his ankle the day before the Owls lost to Marshall. A freshman from Senegal, Niang is averaging 3.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He started six consecutive games and eight overall before the injury. Diang moved into the starting lineup following Ingram’s season-ending injury.
Despite scoring a career-high 32 against Marshall on Thursday, Conference USA voters passed over FAU guard Michael Forrest for the C-USA Freshman of the Week award, opting for Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey instead. Was it upsetting for May to have his promising freshman not receive that honor? “No, not at all,” he said. “From day one we’ve made it very clear that any personal accolades or awards would be based on team success. If we don’t win – we went 0-2 – we didn’t expect him to get any personal awards. Where if our team wins – Marshall, for example, they had two big wins and their guys got the awards – to us, we think that’s fair and that’s the way it should be.”
– Chuck King contributed to this report.