Men’s basketball: Owls drop second game of Maui Invitational with 78-58 loss to Mississippi State

Zack Kelberman

Owls freshman point guard Stefan Moody scored seven points and turned the ball over four times in FAU’s 78-58 loss at Mississippi State. In his first two games, Moody is averaging 31.5 percent shooting and five turnovers per game. Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

Despite a 24-point loss to the Tar Heels in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, the Owls hit the hardwood on Tuesday night against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (whom they defeated in 2010 and lost by single digits to last season) knowing an upset was possible.

However, thanks to a staggering amount of mental errors and undisciplined play, FAU dropped its second game by at least 20 points, falling 78-58 in a blowout to SEC squad MSU.

Simply put, the Owls were dominated in all facets.

The Bulldogs shot better (.492), recorded more assists, steals and blocks, while playing smarter ball. Their bench players, led by sophomore forward Roquez Johnson (17 points, 5 rebounds), significantly outplayed FAU’s front five.

Like in their previous contest, the Owls seemed to focus on the perimeter, foregoing open looks and high-percentage shots. In any case, they didn’t have much luck, shooting 21-of-63 (.333) from the field and 6-of-24 (.250) from behind the arc.

Again, the Owls’ top scorer was senior guard – and captain – Greg Gantt, who finished with 17 points, and also chipped in four rebounds.

Seven-foot Owls center Dragan Sekelja more than quadrupled his boards from last game, pulling down nine rebounds, helping FAU out-rebound MSU by two (37-35).

Yet, there were several nondescript performances by the rest of the Owls’ starters.

Freshman guard Stefan Moody struggled for the second straight game, finishing with just seven points and one rebound. Senior forward Jordan McCoy scored five points. Other than Gantt, the only player in double figures was freshman Cavon Baker, who came off the bench and scored 11 points.

FAU is participating in the inland portion of the Maui Invitational. The Owls complete the tournament with games over the weekend at Coppin State and against either Elon/Colgate. Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

The real focus of the game and by far main contributor in the loss was a common issue: turnovers. FAU was sloppy from the outset, committing a staggering 18 first half turnovers which allowed MSU to jump out to an early lead. In all, FAU turned it over 27 times, with the main culprits being guards Pablo Bertone and Jackson Trapp (5 turnovers each).

The Bulldogs took complete advantage of the Owls’ carelessness, closing out the first half with a decisive 43-26 lead, never having to look back.

FAU initially hung tight with the Bulldogs. The score was tied at 14 with 12 minutes left in the first half after Gantt drained a 3-pointer on a pass from Baker.

Ultimately, though, the immense amount of turnovers created too big of a hole for the Owls to dig themselves out of.

Afterward, Owls head coach Mike Jarvis was upset with his team’s effort – or lack thereof – and kept it short and sweet in his interview with ESPN760.

Jarvis called the number of turnovers “ridiculous,” the play of the point guards “awful,” and said “there is no number high enough” to rate his frustration tonight.

The Owls travel to Elon, NC., to play Coppin State on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 4:30 p.m. to continue the Maui Invitational.