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Jan 13, 2024 12:26 pm

No. 24 FAU aims to build off momentum in clash vs. UAB

No. 24 Florida Atlantic has not been winning all of the close games like it seemingly did last season, but the team’s most recent victory was a throwback to that magical campaign.

The Owls (12-4, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) will play their second conference home game Sunday against UAB in Boca Raton, Fla.

On Thursday, coach Dusty May’s group squandered a late lead by allowing host Tulane to go on a 10-0 run.

However, Alijah Martin was fouled by Tulane’s Jaylen Forbes with less than a second to play on a potential game-winning 3-point attempt.

Martin sank two free throws, allowing the visitors to survive with an 85-84 win.

“This was a big game for our team and we hated that it came down to the play that it did,” May said.

The victory was a change of pace for the coastal Florida team, which has lost twice on missed shots at the end of games.

On Jan. 6 in Charlotte, Nick Boyd’s attempted game-winning corner 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer in a 70-68 loss to the 49ers.

It appears last season’s heroics might be hard to match.

“When you’re dealing with a one-possession game, we talked about it a lot in the offseason,” May said. “Last year, we were able to win all the one-possession games, and the numbers say you’re probably going to win half of them.

“If we continue to be in one-possession games, it’ll probably go back and forth. We’ve got to figure out how to get our edge back, start defending at a higher level and moving the ball like we’re capable of doing.”

Also in its first AAC season, UAB (10-5, 2-0) is finding success in its new home alongside some old foes from Conference USA.

Dating back to the 2008-09 campaign, the Blazers own a 13-5 record against the Owls, though the South Florida school defeated them in two of the three games last season.

In the clubs’ most recent meeting last March 11, FAU trounced UAB 78-56 in the Conference USA championship game in Frisco, Texas. That earned the Owls an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history.

Fourth-year Blazers coach Andy Kennedy said May’s bunch is still a dangerous squad.

“(The Owls) are tremendous. People want to ding them because they didn’t get to see them last year like we did being in their league,” Kennedy said Wednesday on The Next Round broadcast in Birmingham, Ala. “They’ve had some really outstanding wins but a couple of head-scratching losses.

“They have a bullseye on them, obviously. … (But) it’s the FAU that’s coming off a Final Four run and was one shot away from playing on Monday night for the national championship.”

UAB’s Eric Gaines paces a balanced scoring attack with 12.4 points per game. He also leads the team with 4.9 assists. Yaxel Lendeborg chips in 12.3 points and Javian Davis nets 10.8 for the Blazers, who are riding a season-high six-game winning streak.

–Field Level Media

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