For the first time since making a surprise run to the Final Four last year, Florida Atlantic will get to play a game in its home arena when it faces Eastern Michigan on Tuesday night.
It should be a warm reception from the home fans for the Owls, who put themselves on the national map and figure to stay there this season.
Florida Atlantic was ranked No. 10 in the first two polls of the season and are off to a good start this season, earning a 75-62 win at Loyola Chicago in its season opener on Wednesday.
The Owls led by as many as 18 points in the second half and held off a late Loyola Chicago run in carrying over the momentum created last year.
All five starters — Vladislav Goldin, Nick Boyd, Johnell Davis, Brandon Weatherspoon and Bryan Greenlee — are back for Florida Atlantic from that Final Four team, so expectations are obviously high.
“Last year was a special season, but as a coach, as a program, and as a group of players chasing their individual goals and dreams, it was nice to just move on to the next chapter and see what this team can become,” Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May said.
“We are not a finished product. We are going to take a lot of pride in growing and developing and becoming even more of a cohesive unit over the next four or five months.”
Against Loyola Chicago, Goldin led the way with 19 points, Boyd scored 13 points, while Davis and Weatherspoon each added 12 points to lead the Owls.
“Just keep focusing on what is important and what is not important,” Goldin said. “New team, new season, new chapter.”
The next challenge for Florida Atlantic will be an Eastern Michigan team that is a blend of experience and youth.
There are 10 returnees and six newcomers to the roster for the Eagles, led by junior Tyson Acuff, a preseason second-team selection in the Mid-American Conference.
One player the Eagles are trying to adapt without is Emoni Bates, who was taken in the second round of the NBA Draft over the summer by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Eastern Michigan opened with a 94-55 loss at Butler before earning a 70-60 win over Georgia Southern at home on Saturday.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Eastern Michigan head coach Stan Heath said. “I thought you saw flashes of unselfish play. Guys trying to play together and make simple plays with each other. When you do that, the game is fun to watch.”
One freshman to watch for Eastern Michigan could be Arne Osojnik, a player from Slovenia who scored 18 points in the win over Georgia Southern.
“This summer, he was on the U-19 national team for Slovenia,” Heath said. “They were playing against the world. He’s been on some big stages.”
The teams also met last year, with Florida Atlantic earning a 101-73 win at Eastern Michigan.
–Field Level Media
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