Men’s basketball preview: Owls looking to build on three-game winning streak as they host North Texas and Rice this week

FAU’s three-game winning streak is its longest since December of 2014.


Junior Frank Booker’s 28 made 3-pointers are the second most for the Owls this season. Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic men’s basketball welcomes the University of North Texas and Rice University to the Burrow this week, hoping to add to its longest winning streak since December of 2014.

The Owls (8-13, 4-6 Conference USA) travelled last week to defeat Charlotte and Old Dominion University, their first back-to-back road wins in five years.

With its three-game winning streak, FAU has put itself into 11th place in the Conference USA standings. The team will have to try and maintain that position, as only the top 12 teams will advance to the conference tournament.

Here’s what you need to know about both matchups:

North Texas Mean Green:

North Texas (6-16, 0-10 Conference USA) remains the only winless team in conference play, and as a result has found itself dead last in the standings. The Mean Green have lost 11 consecutive games, which is currently tied with the University of South Florida for the second worst losing streak in Division I men’s basketball.

The Mean Green haven’t played well at either end of the floor, which comes from a combination of their low scoring offense and poor defense.

North Texas is 10th in scoring within the conference, averaging 68 points per game while shooting just 41.5 percent from the field. They have made the fifth least 3-pointers in the conference (130), shooting just 31.1 percent from deep.

Defensively, North Texas is 10th in the conference, allowing 73.3 points per game from its opponents, and have allowed 79.6 points in conference play.

The Mean Green have allowed 100 or more points in two conference games this season while holding a -5.5 scoring margin, the second worst in Conference USA.

FAU has to take advantage of the Mean Green’s struggles on the court to pull off this one, as North Texas has yet to win a road game this season (0-10).

In their first 18 games, the Owls averaged just 69.5 points per game. But over their current winning streak, the team has improved to 75 points per game.

FAU had a different leading scorer for each game, with sophomore Justin Massey leading the way last game with 18 points.

Defensively, the Owls have also been solid during the win streak, holding the opponents to 44 percent shooting from the field.  

FAU will have to continue to play well on both sides of the ball while having to get easy points in the paint early and often, which will open up its three-point opportunities even more.

Rice Owls:

Behind sophomore Marcus Evans and junior Egor Koulechov, Rice (15-8, 5-5 Conference USA) jumped out to an early 11-3 record. But after the team’s early hot streak, the Owls have gone 4-7 since.

Evans and Koulechov lead Rice in scoring, with both averaging 18.6 points per game. The duo has led Rice to become the second-best scoring team in Conference USA at a total of 82 points per game.

Rice is also second and first in the conference respectively in shooting percentage and three-point percentage, shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep.

Defense is where the Texas-based Owls struggle as they give up 74.3 points per game, which is 12th in the conference. They also allow 47.3 percent shooting from the field on average.

Despite the team’s high points allowed per game total, Rice does a good job defending the three, allowing just 33 percent of shots from downtown to go in. The tean also do a great job of forcing turnovers, averaging 6.4 steals and 14 turnovers per game.

In order for FAU to win this game, it will have to find a way to slow down Rice’s high-powered offense. One of the keys for the team will be limiting both Evans and Koulechov’s three-point chances, which accounts for a little over 50 percent of Rice’s made three-point shots.

FAU will also have to limit its turnovers and try to force some at the other end. The Owls +1.6 turnover margin is fourth-best in the conference.

FAU will play North Texas on Thursday, Feb. 9, and Rice on Saturday, Feb. 11. Both games will be played at FAU Arena at 7 p.m.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.