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No. 24 Florida Atlantic aims to stay hot, visits UTSA

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Dusty May coaches from the sideline in the second half. The Florida Gators men  s basketball team hosted the Florida Atlantic Owls at Billy Donovan Court at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, FL on Monday, November 14, 2022. Florida Atlantic defeated Florida 76-74.  [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

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Florida Atlantic will look to continue its historic week when it takes on UTSA in San Antonio on Thursday night.

Fresh off their first Top 25 ranking in program history, the 24th-ranked Owls (17-1, 7-0 in Conference USA) scored a 76-62 win at Western Kentucky on Monday in the first of three consecutive conference matchups away from Boca Raton, Fla.

FAU, which is on a 16-game winning streak since sustaining its only loss at Ole Miss on Nov. 11, put Monday’s game away in the second half by shooting 53.8 percent from the field (14 of 26). The Owls put together an 18-5 run to take a 69-55 lead with 6:11 remaining.

Florida Atlantic crushed the Hilltoppers on the boards, 43-25, including 12-4 on the offensive glass.

“We’re very pleased with our guys’ response in the second half,” Owls coach Dusty May said. “They tightened up defensively and made everything difficult for Western Kentucky. The rebounding advantage was probably as important as anything, which is a testament to our guys’ scrappiness and toughness.”

Nick Boyd played a big part in securing the win with a game-high 16 points along with four rebounds and four assists. Alijah Martin, one of three players for the Owls averaging double figures in scoring, had 15 points and went 7-for-9 from the free throw line.

“Our players obviously acknowledged the ranking and are proud of it,” May said. “They compete every minute of every practice and every game. When the lights come on and the clock is running, they just play basketball and do what they do, so that’s why all of the other stuff should not affect our performance night in and night out.”

Despite the first 30-point game by one of their players since 2021, the Roadrunners (7-12, 1-7) dropped their fourth straight game with an 88-81 overtime decision against Rice.

Japhet Medor hit that mark along with a team-high five assists, but UTSA lost for the seventh time in its past eight games.

The output wasn’t enough, however, as UTSA couldn’t contain Rice in overtime or slow down Quincy Olivari (30 points) or Max Fielder, who recorded 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Even more frustrating for the Roadrunners was seeing a 16-point lead with 7:06 remaining in regulation fade away as Rice took a one-point advantage in the closing seconds. Medor then missed one of two free throws which could have sealed the game in regulation.

“This one hurts,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Our guys believed we were going to get this one.”

The Roadrunners were without forward Jacob Germany, who missed his second consecutive game with a head injury.

While Medor has led UTSA on the offensive end with 13.7 points and 3.8 assists per game, Germany’s presence would be very helpful against FAU. Germany has averaged 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.

–Field Level Media