Owls Overpower Listless Eagles

SPORTS – A week after a disappointing loss in their home opener, the Owls took control early and never looked back against the overmatched Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).

Carlos Monroe tied his season-high with 26 points to lead FAU men’s basketball team (2-7) to the 69-55 victory in front of 866 fans at the Boca campus Burrow.

“We are starting to excel as a team,” said Monroe, after his 12-of-18 shooting, nine rebound performance. “That was just a glimpse of what we can do.”

Monroe’s inside presence and strong play from the starting backcourt of Sean Alarcon and Carderro Nwoji allowed the Owls to dominate the Eagles (3-6) for nearly the entire game. Alarcon scored 13 points and had a career-high eight assists while Nwoji added 10 points of his own.

“My teammates were just making open shots,” said Alarcon.

Alarcon made some open shots of his own, taking pressure off Monroe in the post and spotting up to make three baskets from beyond the arc. Monroe even made a 3-pointer late in the second half, the first of his career.

“We want to get the ball to the paint,” said FAU coach Rex Walters. “We feel like that sucks in the defense and sets up open 3-point shots. It’s not rocket science.”

The strategy worked and the Owls shot over 50 percent from the floor and made 40 percent of their 3-pointers.

FGCU brought a loud contingent of fans from across Alligator Alley, but their vocal support proved of little help. The Eagles were behind 14-5 early, 30-15 at halftime and fell behind by 20 midway through the second half.

“We buried ourselves and went into comeback mode early,” said FGCU coach Dave Balza. “I don’t think we had the right mindset from the start.” The Eagles traveled from their Fort Myers campus by bus earlier in the day and arrived in Boca Raton around 5 p.m. Their rough travel schedule showed in their listless play. FGCU shot an abysmal 30.6 percent from the floor and were at just 21.4 percent in the first half.

The Eagles, members of the Atlantic Sun conference, pulled a surprising 73-70 victory over Florida International earlier this week and were looking for their second win over a Sun Belt opponent.

“We never made much of a game of it,” Balza said.

Alarcon started in place of Paul Graham, who is serving a minimum 30-day suspension and missed his fourth consecutive game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

The Owls take on the University of North Florida Ospreys Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Boca campus Burrow.