Men’s Basketball: Owls push Conference USA’s top program UAB to wire in loss

The Owls fall on the last play of the game

FAU+head+coach+Michael+Curry+talks+to+his+team+during+a+media+timeout+late+in+the+second%0Ahalf+of+his+team%27s+76-59+loss+to+Middle+Tennessee+on+March+3.+Max+Jackson+%7C+Staff+Photographer

FAU head coach Michael Curry talks to his team during a media timeout late in the second half of his team's 76-59 loss to Middle Tennessee on March 3. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic men’s basketball had its chance to beat Conference USA’s top team but couldn’t convert in clutch time, dropping Saturday’s matchup against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers 73-70.

Coming out of a timeout trailing 70-69 with possession of the ball and 15 seconds left on the clock, Owls (7-24, 5-13 Conference USA) freshman forward Jeantal Cylla drove toward the basket but was blocked on his shot attempt.

“I should’ve went a little harder,” Cylla said.

The Blazers and Owls exchanged foul shots until redshirt junior guard Adonis Filer missed a hail mary three-quarter court shot at the buzzer.

Sophomore center Ronald Delph — who made all five of his field goal attempts and all four of his foul shots in the game — was not on the floor for that potential game-winning possession. He finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

“We wanted to spread [the defense],” head coach Michael Curry explained as to why Delph was off the floor. “Didn’t know if they were going to play zone or man and so with all the shooters on the floor we knew their bigs would have to get all the way out and so again if they did come in [the paint, the shooters were there].

According to Curry, he wanted to clear a way to the basket for a close shot. “If we put Ronald at the basket, it keeps them at the basket, so we tried to get them up,” he said.
Cylla scored a team-high 16 points for FAU, making 7-of-17 shots from the floor. Freshman guard Nick Rutherford added 13 points of his own for the Owls.

The true difference in the game occurred toward the end of the first half. The two teams were neck and neck until UAB closed the half on a 14-2 run in the final 4:14, part of a 25-7 run for the Blazers in the half’s final nine minutes.

Though they lost, the Owls showed major improvement, as last time these two teams met in February, UAB dominated en route to a 37-point victory. FAU was out-rebounded in that matchup by 27 — it loss this afternoon’s rebound battle by only six, 43-37.

The February matchup saw UAB shoot 60 percent from the field. FAU limited the Blazers to 39.7 percent during their latest game.

“We started giving up some terrible plays, not getting back on transition and shooting quick shots,” said senior guard Jackson Trapp of the previous face off.

“This game we tried to limit their runs as much as possible,” Trapp continued, after Cylla noted they gave up a 48-11 run in the prior matchup.

With the win, the Blazers (26-5, 16-2 C-USA) broke their own school record for wins in a single season. They also have locked up the No. 1 seed in the Conference USA Tournament, giving them a two-round bye into the quarterfinals.

UAB was led by redshirt senior guard Robert Brown’s 17 points and 15 from sophomore forward William Lee.

Seniors Trapp, Solomon Poole and forward Javier Lacunza were all honored before play began as it was the last home game for the trio at The Burrow.

“I tried to treat [senior day] as any other game,” Trapp said. “Obviously knowing it was my last game here, it’s crazy to think how fast it went by and everything. It’s been awesome playing here. I love it here, this will always be my family.”

Though the Owls have now lost their last five games, they will look to build off Saturday’s strong performance. Heading into the Conference USA Tournament, the 12th seeded FAU will battle against the 13th seeded University of Texas at San Antonio, which the Owls have already beaten twice this season.

“We have to play them like we’ve never beat them before,” Cylla said.

The game will tip off on Tuesday, March 8, at noon.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.