FAU Women’s Basketball: Owls rout Lions at home, 104-73

FAU never trailed as six players scored in double-digits, despite 30 points from Lions guard Keaynna Tolbert.

Alexa+Zaph+had+12+points+in+FAU%27s+win+over+Florida+Memorial.+Photo+Courtesy+of+JC+Ridley.

Alexa Zaph had 12 points in FAU’s win over Florida Memorial. Photo Courtesy of JC Ridley.

John DeStefano, Contributing Writer

The FAU Women’s basketball team got back on track Friday night by toppling the Florida Memorial Lions, 104-73. In a game that looked to be all but over by halftime, the Owls flexed their muscles and showed that they are a team to watch out for when they begin their Conference-USA schedule on New Year’s Day.

FAU and FMU play in the NCAA and NAIA respectively, and the disparity in the size of the talent pools between the two levels often makes games such as this akin to a “friendly” in soccer. But, there was nothing amicable once the opening whistle sounded on Friday, as both teams played hard for all 40 minutes.

Graduate Transfer Iggy Allen led the Owls for the third game in a row with a team-high 19 points and added nine rebounds and five assists for her most complete performance to date. Allen entered the night third in C-USA in scoring and she has proved to be everything as advertised since arriving at FAU this past offseason.

Her counterpart, Lions junior guard Keaynna Tolbert was magnificent in a losing effort while battling a hand injury she suffered early in the first quarter. Tolbert tirelessly attacked the rim and got there nearly as often as she wanted. She finished with an eye-popping 30 points.

Despite a wide margin between the two teams, the game was even more lopsided than the scoreboard would indicate.

FAU doubled up the Lions in rebounds, 62-29, leading to 33 second-chance points and owing, in part, to the Owls’ significant height advantage, as FMU lacks a player taller than six feet. Owls senior forward Astou Gaye was immovable when positioned beneath the basket and she consistently outboxed her shorter opponents to grab a season-high 14 off the glass, ending her night a point shy of a double-double.

Sophomore guards Allie Tylka and Alexa Zaph went for 13 and 12 points respectively, while junior forward Amber Gaston found her breakout game of the season, finishing with a remarkably efficient 14 points in just 13 minutes without missing any of her seven field goal attempts.

In total, six Owls scored in double-digits, including sophomore guard Tanyia Gordon who added 10 points off the bench.

Despite all their hard effort, FMU was done in by a lack of fundamentals, especially on inbound plays. The Lions struggled tremendously to get the ball in play, including a stretch that saw four tries in a row from the sideline get knocked away. Many of their out-of-bounds plays resulted in steals, and the Owls got four takeaways each from Zaph, Gaye, and Gaston.

Still, the fight shown by many Lions players including Tolbert and junior forward Jamari Tillman, who provided 12 points on 10-10 free throw shooting, was admirable. Though the outcome was inevitable well before the final whistle, the FMU squad was enjoying the small victories that the game can provide like made three-pointers and finished plays until the final horn sounded. 

Lions junior guard Destiny Marin could be seen grinning from ear-to-ear as her teammates vociferously cheered her on after her second make in a row midway through the fourth quarter. She already knew that this game is much more than a regular-season matchup for both her team and her school.

The final score of this game was, as they say, only part of the story.

FAU and FMU are not rivals, but they have been consistent opponents for over 30 years. 

Games between NCAA and non-member schools are traditionally scheduled to aid smaller schools like Florida Memorial, a historically black university boasting a student body of 1,800 enrollees, in gaining exposure and to provide them with the opportunity to play against high-level competition. Regular engagements with the Lions have occurred for nearly the entire existence of the FAU Women’s basketball program.

Beyond the monetary compensation FMU receives for scheduling the event, the players on both sides gain invaluable experience as they prepare for the remainder of their seasons.

FAU junior guards Rita Pleskevich and Glenisha Harkless, and sophomore guard Tori Abelson all saw their first action of the season on Friday.

Though there were plenty of highlights on the scoresheet, sloppy play by FAU down the stretch, which led to 25 turnovers for the game, showed just how much work this team still must do before the C-USA season.

The Owls will have a long break leading up to their first pair of conference games at Middle Tennessee State with the first game scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan 1. It will be broadcast on C-USA TV.

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.