Men’s basketball: Owls improve to 2-3 with thrilling 58-55 win over Eagles

Zack Kelberman

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After nearly three weeks away from home, the Owls (1-3) returned to The Burrow, attempting to avenge last week’s heartbreaking 62-59 overtime loss to Elon.

Six days, as it turns out, made all the difference.

Riding the hot hands of its guards, FAU narrowly defeated the American University Eagles (2-2), 58-55, in the fourth meeting ever between the teams.

Down 55-53 with four seconds remaining, Stefan Moody hit a go-ahead 3-pointer, giving the Owls a 56-55 advantage and, ultimately, their second victory of the season.

It was a timely shot by Moody, one he hadn’t hit of that magnitude since high school. The freshman guard totaled eight points, six rebounds and an assist off the bench, while drawing effusive praise from head coach Mike Jarvis.

“He’s our best offensive player,” Jarvis said. “He’s the guy, and when he has the ball, I expect him to do something and make something happen. If we’re going to have a good season, he’s got to be on the court. He’s our best offensive player. Period.”

Prior to Moody’s shot, American had retaken control in a back-and-forth second half, which saw numerous lead changes and a drama-filled finish.

The Eagles, in fact, statistically outplayed the Owls, shooting better from the field (.444), recording more rebounds (29) and more assists (12). Each team committed eight turnovers in a relatively clean game.

FAU, though, pulled it out on the strength of two key players: guards Greg Gantt and Jackson Trapp.

Gantt, again, showed why he’s one of the team’s biggest assets. The 6-foot-2 senior led all scorers with 23 points and also collected five rebounds, happy to earn the W.

“A win is a win. I’ll take it any way I can get it,” Gantt said.

Trapp, who came into the afternoon averaging seven points-per-game, knocked down half of his field goals (5 of 10), hit two 3-pointers, dished out six assists, and ended with 12 points, arguably as the first half’s most productive player.

There were some glaring issues for FAU, however.

American’s prevalent 2-3 zone gave the Owls fits, at times preventing them from getting open looks and seemingly causing them to shy away from the paint.

Stefan Moody admitted that FAU “made it harder on themselves” by failing to exploit the zone, and it was something “we’ll need to correct.”

Also, 7-foot center Dragan Sekelja had a disappointing outing — and not only in the box score.

The big man had just four points and four rebounds, but was continually worked inside by the Eagles’ 6-foot-8 forward Stephen Lumpkins, who scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds, a few of which were of the offensive variety.

Jarvis wasn’t too thrilled with Sekelja, but offered hope for the future.

“Someday, he’s going to realize he’s 7-feet tall and he’s got decent athletic ability,” Jarvis said. “He’s gotta be a presence. I’m disappointed in his play, but his effort and attitude has been good. He’ll be fine.”

As a team, the Owls didn’t give the prettiest effort. They connected on 18 of 48 shots, chucked up 23 3-pointers (making 10) and let their opponent climb back into the driver’s seat with undisciplined defense.

But they don’t award style points in basketball. This victory, as Jarvis explained, will go a long way in both the short and long-terms.

“This was a good team win, good character win,” concluded Jarvis. “A win we can build on”

The Owls will remain home and play South Alabama on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.