Men’s Basketball: FAU’s comeback bid falls short in loss to UTEP

The Owls rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half but were unable to come up victorious

Senior+guard+Solomon+Poole+goes+for+a+layup+during+the+Owls%27+89-82+loss+to+UTEP+Saturday.+Mohammed+F.+Emran+%7C+Staff+Photographer

Senior guard Solomon Poole goes for a layup during the Owls' 89-82 loss to UTEP Saturday. Mohammed F. Emran | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

Despite being down by as many as 18 points in the second half, Florida Atlantic men’s basketball’s bid to split the season series versus UTEP fell just short, losing 89-82 Saturday night.

Florida Atlantic (7-19, 5-8 Conference USA) came within three points with 2:32 remaining in the game, but the Owls were unable to score any more points and UTEP (15-11, 7-6 Conference USA) knocked down four late free-throws to close out the fourth quarter.

It was a tale of two halves for FAU offensively and defensively, shooting only 40 percent from the field while allowing UTEP to shoot 57 percent in the first half. However, in the second half, the Owls shot 53 percent while holding the Miners to only 44 percent.

FAU also took a season high 27 3-pointers, making 12 of them. UTEP, not known for its 3-point shooting abilities, shot only 10 3-pointers, making five total.

The Miners were able to jump on the Owls early, opening the game on an 8-0 run until junior guard Adonis Filer broke the shutout with a 3-pointer. The first half score was close until a jumper by Miners’ senior center Hooper Vint extended the lead to double digits with 9:10 remaining in the half.

Junior guard Marquan Botley hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead down to seven, but UTEP went on a 19-5 run to push the lead to 41-24 with 5:18 left in the first half. The Owls were able to cut into that lead and a Filer layup with three seconds remaining dropped the deficit down to 47-34 going into halftime.

“This is the one team in the league that, if you’re not the aggressor, they are going to put you on your heels the whole time,” said head coach Michael Curry after the game. “They have guards that really like to get downhill and penetrate.”

Junior forward Jeantal Cylla led the Owls with 10 points at the halftime break while UTEP senior guard Earvin Morris had 14 for the Miners, despite being in foul trouble.

The Owls began the second half on a three-point play by Cylla to cut the lead down to 10. However, the Miners were able to retain their double-digit lead throughout the second half, even with Morris sitting out almost the entire half with foul trouble.

Down 82-67 with 6:02 left in the game, a Cylla and Botley 3-pointer started the comeback bid as FAU held UTEP without a field goal for almost four minutes during the second half.

“It hard that hard to play when you are down,” said Curry, when asked why the team played better in the last five minutes of the game. “It’s easier and less pressure to play when you are down.”

UTEP outscored FAU in the paint 52-28 despite the Owls’ main paint-protector sophomore Ronald Delph sitting out only nine minutes in the game. The Owls were also outscored 27-13 in points off turnovers.

The Miners had six players in double-digit scoring led by junior guard Lee Moore’s 17 points to go with six rebounds.

Filer led the Owls in scoring for the 12th game this season with 18 points, 10 of which came in the second half. The Owls also had three other players scoring double digits.

FAU takes its last road trip of the season, heading back to Texas to face Rice University and the   University of North Texas, on Thursday and Saturday respectively.

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected]