Owls grab solid win over UCF behind new career high from Pablo Bertone

Wesley Wright

2 - Guard Pablo Bertone shoots during the second half of Tuesday night’s game. Bertone scored a career high 31 points against the Knights. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Guard Pablo Bertone shoots during the second half of Tuesday night’s game. Bertone scored a career high 31 points against the Knights. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

The Florida Atlantic University Owls (2-6) beat the University of Central Florida (3-3) in the first of two consecutive home games.

A hotly contested first half saw an encouraging effort from forward Justin Raffington, who had eight points and three rebounds.

Raffington scored no points in the second half, unfortunately, and finished the night 0-8 from the free throw line. “Hopefully he continues to play well,” senior guard Pablo Bertone said of Raffington. “If only we could get him to make some free throws.”

His frontcourt companion, Dragan Sekelja, was unable to find a rhythm for the entirety of the night.

“He just didn’t play well,” Head Coach Mike Jarvis said of his fifth year senior. Sekelja finished the game with just one point and seven rebounds.

The Owl backcourt was solid though, and it propelled the Owls to a halftime 35-32 lead. Bertone scored 12 points in the first half and Jackson Trapp added nine more. Preseason all-conference selection Isaiah Sykes scored 12 first-half points for the Knights.

FAU and UCF shot very well in the first half (48 and 52 percent, respectively) but it was FAU who came out of halftime and continued to run efficient offensive sets.

Employing a 2-3 zone paid dividends for FAU, and at times the UCF offense was relegated to throwing the ball around the perimeter—which is exactly what the Owls hoped for. The Golden Knights only scored 13 field goals in the second half, confounded by the zone.

“We probably caught them off guard,” Jarvis said of the 2-3 zone defense. Jarvis added that there are times where the 2-3 will be a “change-up” defense of sorts, designed to alter the offensive tempo for the opposing team.

While the change in defensive strategy was paying dividends, the offense found a bit of a groove in the second half. Bertone added some life to an Owl offense that scored just four points in the first four minutes of the second half.

Two straight baskets from the Argentinean senior stretched the FAU lead to eight, and the game stood at 48-41 with 11:57 remaining in the game. With just under nine minutes to go, Marquan Botley forced a turnover, then scored an easy layup that brought the Owl lead to 57-44.

Bertone expressed some praise regarding the play of the point men. “The point [guards] played well tonight.” Botley totaled 11 points and D’Andre Johnson added five assists.

The Golden Knights of UCF got as close as five points, but late scoring from the free-throw line and some careless turnovers would doom the team to a road loss.

Bertone finished with a new career high of 31 points. Trapp finished with 13 points. Javier Lacunza, who played 20 minutes, also provided a bit of a welcome spark off the bench by adding eight points and four rebounds.  UCF guard Isaiah Sykes, a preseason all-conference selection, would add 23 points and seven rebounds for the Golden Knights.

The Owls play Jacksonville (FL) University at 3 p.m. on Dec. 7, looking to grab their third win of the season.