FAU upset North Texas, 57-47, earning a win over one of Conference USA’s best, bringing the Owls to the brink of securing a spot in the conference’s second pod – and the conference tournament berth that comes with it.
With a minute to go and his team up four, 51-47, Kevaughn Ellis made the Owls’ (15-11, 6-7 C-USA) game-clinching defensive play.
Ellis poked the ball loose from North Texas (20-6, 8-5 C-USA) guard Michael Miller, the tapping it to hustling FAU guard Anthony Adger, who drew a foul. Adger went to the charity stripe and knocked down both of free throws, extending the Owls’ lead to six.
North Texas wouldn’t hit a basket for the rest of the night.
That scoreless stretch was a microcosm of larger, spirited FAU defensive effort. FAU held North Texas to 33 percent shooting, frustrating a Mean Green offense that never seemed to find its footing.
“I thought our guys really did a good job of paying attention to who they were closing out to, who they were rotating to, and those are such quick decisions for young guys to make,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “Maybe we lucked into them or maybe we made good decisions, but nonetheless, we played really hard and had great activity.”
Controlling the glass has been North Texas’ calling card all year. But it was FAU who owned the paint on Thursday. The Mean Green came into the game tied for the C-USA lead with a plus-5.5 rebounding margin, but were outrebounded 37-30 by the Owls.
Big men Simeon Lepichev (8) and Karlis Silins (7) pulled down a combined 15 rebounds. Their play down low was critical to FAU pulling off the upset.
“The more physical the game is – and that game was very physical – the more advantageous it is for Karlis, because he likes to throw his body around,” May said. “He’s a very physical player.
FAU’s six conference wins ties the most of the Owls since joining Conference USA.
Several scenarios in Saturday’s C-USA action will help FAU secure a spot in the second pod, the simplest being a win against Rice on Saturday.
GameBrowser: FAU (15-11, 6-7) 57, North Texas (20-6, 8-5) 47
Moving Forward: Adger led FAU in scoring with 15 points and was productive in all facets of the game, posting five rebounds and five assists. …Swingman Xavian Stapleton hit four of his eight three-pointers, scoring 12 points in addition to three rebounds. …Silins scored 14 points on an unblemished 4-4 line. …The Owls held two of their past three opponents to fewer than 50 points.
Falling Backward: Simeon Lepichev had more turnovers (3) than made shots (1). … FAU shot a mere 38.6 percent from the field as a team.
Key Stat: 85.7 – Silins’ free-throw percentage. A 59-percent free-throw shooter coming into the game, Silins went 6-7 from the line. The Owls shot 15-17 as a team.
Up Next: It’s an Owls-on-Owls matchup Saturday, as FAU battles Rice in what will be the final game before pod play. Tip off from The Burrow is slated for 2 p.m.