FAU men’s basketball team beats Holy Cross, 87-69, in the first Boca Beach Classic game

FAU guards Taylor, Forrest and Maitre spurred the Owls offense.


FAU is now 1-0 in their new “Paradise Vice” uniforms. Photo by: Alex Liscio.

John DeStefano, Contributing Writer

The FAU Owls men’s basketball team got back on track Friday night in Boca Raton with a convincing home victory over the Holy Cross Crusaders 87-69. 

The Owls’ dominant performance featured stellar guard play from graduate transfer Cornelius Taylor and junior Richardson Maitre, while sophomore Michael Forrest shot the lights out in the first half.

The game may prove an important turning point in the season for the Owls (3-3), as it marks the first time this year where they played two strong halves of basketball, something that eluded them in their three losses, including a  loss last week to Florida Gulf Coast University 72-70 in overtime.

 It was clear from the get-go on Friday that the Owls entered the game prepared to play the full 40 minutes.

“I thought all of our guards played like veterans,” said FAU head coach Dusty May.

Perhaps owing to the debut of their brand new “Paradise Vice” uniforms, energy was rampant for the Owls in the first half, and Taylor led the way through the breaches in the Holy Cross defense. He knifed through the lane off the dribble and kept his head up, looking to pass, and provided crisp kick-outs, leading to his game-high four assists.

The Owls opened up a 19-10 lead near the ten minute mark in the first half, aided greatly by contributions from Maitre, who would total 13 points and three steals in 23 minutes of work. 

This proved to be insurmountable for the Crusaders (4-3), who were unable to sustain more than one long scoring run in their attempt to get back in the game. The Holy Cross offense was so ineffective that they managed four points in the final 7:59.

Forrest was the star of the opening 20 minutes for the Owls as he went a perfect 4-4 on his three-point attempts. But Taylor was also excellent from long range, draining three triples of his own, including a buzzer-beater at halftime that allowed FAU to open up a wide 41-21 margin. 

Taylor finished the game as the Owls’ leading scorer with 15 points and tied forward Madiaw Niang for the most rebounds on the night with six.

Looming largest over the loss for the Crusaders was the initial absence of freshman guard Drew Lowder, who was held out of the entire first period for reasons that were not immediately clear. Lowder was not listed on the injury report and came into the contest leading his team in scoring (16.4 pts) and assists (4.0) per game.

After finally checking in with just under 16 minutes to play, he immediately made his presence known with two straight three-pointers. Lowder’s spark sent the Crusaders on a 15-4 run, and they eventually pulled to within 12. 

Sensing the need for more physicality, the Owls attacked the rim with their guards — most notably freshman Kenan Blackshear, who earned himself a “three-point-play” on three separate occasions. These provided huge momentum shifts and helped prevent Holy Cross from mounting any further streaks of offense.

Lowder continued to fight and finished the night with an impressive 14 points in just over a quarter of an hour of basketball, including a massive three-pointer when he was left alone. His second half performance combined with junior Austin Butler to add 30 points from the Holy Cross backcourt. Butler’s 16 points led all scorers.

One area of concern for the Owls continues to be their free-throw shooting. Their conversion rate from the charity stripe ended at 71.4 percent on the evening, which, though it is a marked improvement, shows there is still plenty of work to be done in practice. 

FAU is currently ranked 346th out of 353 Division I schools with a 55.9 free-throw percentage.

After Lowder started the Holy Cross offense on its only tear of the evening, FAU could have ended the run abruptly when Crusader forward Marlon Hargis was hit with a technical foul for taunting after a made three-pointer. 

However, Forrest was unable to convert either of the two free-throws for the Owls, and the momentum stayed with Holy Cross. Forrest went 1-4 on his free-throw attempts for the evening, and finished the game with 13 points.

Sophomore forward Karlis Silins also turned in a worthy, albeit brief performance for the Owls and ignited the home crowd with a show-stopping tomahawk dunk in the waning moments that became the game’s exclamation point. Silins worked hard for all eight of his points in 12 minutes on the court. 

Holy Cross, with all their defensive faults, continued to fight throughout, and played two points better than the Owls in the second half. 

FAU plays their next five games at home, and will look to get above the .500 mark on Sunday, Dec. 1 when they welcome the UIC Flames to the Burrow for the continuation of the Boca Beach Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m..

John DeStefano is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Johns_voice.