FAU Women’s Basketball: Owls lose their first game of the season to Miami, 73-61

Miami dominated in rebounding and free throws, despite Iggy Allen’s career-high 23 points.

FAU graduate transfer Iggy Allen scored a career high 23 points in the loss to the Miami Hurricanes. Photo courtesy of Tessa Mortensen/Miami Hurricanes Athletics.

FAU graduate transfer Iggy Allen scored a career high 23 points in the loss to the Miami Hurricanes. Photo courtesy of Tessa Mortensen/Miami Hurricanes Athletics.

John DeStefano, Contributing Writer

The FAU Owls suffered their first loss of the season Thursday night in a tough in-state rivalry game against the Miami Hurricanes, 73-61. The Owls’ absence from the defensive glass and cold second half shooting proved too much to overcome against a well-coached Hurricane squad.

Graduate transfer Iggy Allen led the way once again for the Owls in her bid for vengeance against her former school. Allen’s realization of her role as the team’s emotional leader was on full display as she played with a passion that set her apart from the other players on the floor.

Throughout much of the first half, the teams appeared evenly matched, as early runs by Miami found the Owls marking them stride for stride and the teams ended the first quarter tied at 20.

It wasn’t all pretty, though. Each team would be plagued by turnovers for most of the evening, and the Owls and Hurricanes ended the first half with 16 and 15 giveaways, respectively.

And then came the referees.

There were questionable calls against both sides which made an already sloppy half of basketball even slopier. Owls head coach Jim Jabir was less than shy about making his displeasure known to the officials. The Hurricanes were awarded 33 free throws in the first 20 minutes, against just 12 for FAU.

Allen, fueled by the explosive energy that comes with facing one’s former team, carried the Owls through most of the game. However, a foul call forced her to sit halfway through the second quarter and the Hurricanes took full advantage of her departure, bringing a 39-29 lead into the break.

Put simply: they were completely outplayed in the second half.

Miami dominated the glass at both ends, preventing second-chance opportunities for FAU while creating plenty of extra shots in their offensive zone. The Hurricanes grabbed a game-changing 49 total rebounds, including nine by guard Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba, who followed a career-high in scoring against UNF on Saturday to lead both teams in boards.

Allen, for her part, went straight back to work in the second half, putting forth a near-superhuman effort to try and keep the Owls close. She finished with a career-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds and three steals, limited only by her lack of minutes due to multiple foul calls.

FAU led briefly in the third, 50-49, after a run sparked by sophomore guard Alexa Zaph, who had eight points in the quarter and looks to be coming into her own in her second year. But Miami responded with a 27-3 run that lasted well into the fourth quarter and the Hurricanes never looked back.

Miami guard Kelsey Marshall was terrific from start to finish, putting up seven of Miami’s first ten points, and finishing the night with a team-high 21.

The Owl defense played well for the most part, forcing Miami below 36 percent in field goal shooting. However, fundamentals like crashing the boards and boxing out were severely lacking, and will certainly be focal points in practice going forward.

Though this wasn’t FAU’s best effort, every team is entitled to an off night. However, it is important to note that these are the kinds of games that separate the good teams from great ones.

If you want to win in March, you have to answer some questions in December, January, and February.

How does your team respond when the shots aren’t falling? Who will give something extra for that crucial rebound in a critical moment? Who can be relied on to pick the team up when the chips are down?

FAU will need to start answering these and more soon, with conference play already on the horizon. The fight shown by Allen and Zaph on Thursday was remarkable, but they can’t do it alone.

Senior forward Astou Gaye followed up a double-double earlier in the week with four fouls and no other significant contributions in 12 minutes. The Owls can ill afford for her to end another game with donuts in her stat line.

Sophomores Lotta Vehka-Aho and Allie Tylka were equally absent, combining for just three points.

If the Owls are to contend with conference front runners like Middle Tennessee and UTEP, they’re going to need to fix their shortcomings quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Their first chance to do so will come swiftly, as FAU travels to Gainesville on Monday to take on the Florida Gators. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

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.