Commentary: FAU men’s basketball should be proud despite falling to UM 93-90 in double-overtime



Forward Pablo Bertone finished the game with six points, six rebounds and two blocks, though he shot just 2 of 12 from the field, prompting an earful from Jarvis. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

Rolando Rosa

Forward Pablo Bertone finished the game with six points, six rebounds and two blocks, though he shot just 2 of 12 from the field, prompting an earful from Jarvis. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

David (Sun Belt Conference’s FAU) gave Goliath (ACC’s UM) its best punch.

A freshman from team David defiantly threw slingshot darts at the giants from team Goliath. So bloodied and woozy was Goliath in a back and forth match with numerous lead changes, that it seemed the game would never end. When it was finally over, FAU was dealt its 21st loss in 22 attempts against Miami.

Before the game, UM’s coach, Jim Larranaga, and his staff were prepared for a close contest with FAU. Larranaga predicted to his staff that the game would go into overtime.

But he sold this thriller of a game short. It would take not one, but two overtimes for the Hurricanes to defeat the Owls 93-90 at the Bank Atlantic Center in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, but FAU earned UM’s respect.

“My hat’s off to Florida Atlantic,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said. “Their 3-point shooting was incredible. We were very concerned with that going into the game and it proved to be very true.”

FAU hit 15 of 29 3-pointers as an Owls freshmen showcased his skills to the nation.

Freshman guard Omari Grier scored 27 points, an Owls season high and tied for the most against the Hurricanes this season. He drained seven 3-pointers in the game, which tied an Orange Bowl Basketball Classic record, as he replaced the injured Greg Gantt.

“I first found out yesterday I would be starting,” Grier said. “So I was pretty excited.”

As were his teammates.

With FAU down by three, Grier hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to send the game into overtime as he swaggered back to an ecstatic Owls bench. Trailing by three in overtime, Grier calmly hit another 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining to send the contest into double-overtime. Grier has no fear — a trait that will bode well for his budding college career.

“That’s usually my mentality,” Grier said. “Coaches and teammates always encourage me to keep shooting, so seeing the first one go in is definitely a huge help and [it] boosted my confidence as far as the rest of the game goes.”

FAU point guard Ray Taylor was not surprised at Grier’s 3-point clinic.

“Omari’s one of the best pure shooters in the country,” Taylor said. “I’ll take him against any conference’s best shooter. Just for him to come out, show that much toughness — that shows a lot about this kid.”

UM’s Reggie Johnson and FAU’s Taylor epitomized the David and Goliath battle. At one point, the ambitious Taylor dared to challenge the monster, but was denied and flattened to the floor.

Five foot six Taylor, the smallest man on the court, arose and was determined to be the David that would will the Owls to a victory over his hometown team, Goliath-sized Miami. Taylor had 20 points and nine assists, which tied an Orange Bowl Basketball classic record, as he challenged UM defenders to stop him, constantly slicing into the lane for baskets.

At one point late in regulation, Taylor hit a layup as he was fouled, sliced in the process, having to leave the game temporarily. He quickly returned, and provided the highlight of the game, a beautiful behind the back feed that froze the Hurricanes, leading to a Kore White dunk.

Owls forward Kore White had 18 points and 6 rebounds but was outplayed by a man coming off of a torn meniscus injury. Six feet ten and 284 pounds, UM big man Reggie Johnson made his season debut against the Owls. Despite his obvious rust, Johnson threw around the FAU tandem of Kore White and Jordan McCoy like rag dolls, finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds and a surprising five assists.

Omari Grier is guarded by opposing player, Reggie Johnson. Grier scored the most points for FAU; 27 in total. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

FAU head coach Mike Jarvis had harsh words and big expectations for White afterwards.

“No I’m not pleased with the way Kore White has played,” said Jarvis. “When Kore White starts playing better longer, we’ll be better. Kore White should be averaging a double-double.”

FAU won the rebounding battle, shockingly though, 28 to 22.

Senior point guard Alex Tucker came off the bench to provide his best game of the season, registering 13 points, seven assists and six steals for the Owls, who started four guards.

This was a defeat unlike the previous ones.

“Today was different,” said Jarvis. “They made plays. They made big shots when they had to.”

Bottom line: UM returned its best player (Johnson) and FAU was without its best player (Gantt). Considering that, the final score is forgivable, even if team David nearly scrapped its way to an upset.

Could a new rivalry be brewing in South Florida? Depends on whether Goliath is scared or not.

Coach Jarvis was asked if he wanted to play the Hurricanes in the future.

“‘If they came to our place once every other year,” said Jarvis.” But they don’t want to play in Boca.”

And after today, who could blame them?