Men’s Basketball: Owls topple Memphis in first round of NCAA Tourney

FAU defeated the Memphis Tigers 66-65 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Cameron Priester

Junior guard Jalen Gaffney awaiting a pair of foul shots against Memphis on March 17, 2023.

Cameron Priester, Sports Editor

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Owls rarely like to boast about their many accomplishments. It’s a habit they picked up from the man at the helm, head coach Dusty May. 

In December, after defeating the University of South Alabama 84-59 to match the best start in program history, May was asked how he felt, and the message in the locker room amidst their fast start. 

“This means absolutely nothing,” May snapped back.

When sitting down with the University Press for an interview in February, May was asked about this tendency to downplay his work, and questioned whether the historic season his team is on was even the least bit satisfying.

“I guess,” said May through a laugh, almost shrugging off the question. “Maybe, when the season is over.”

When the final buzzer rang inside Nationwide Arena on Friday night, this went out the window as the Owls stormed the court to celebrate their first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.

#25 FAU men’s basketball (32-3, 18-2 C-USA) took down the #24 University of Memphis Tigers (26-9, 13-5 AAC) 66-65 in the Round of 64 Friday night at Nationwide Arena. The 2-point upset represents their first tournament win, and advances them to the Round of 32, where they’ll face the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson University Knights (21-15, 10-6 NEC). 

When the victory was sealed, FAU’s bench cleared as their celebration ensued. However, as festivities were still happening on the floor, old habits returned as sophomore Nicholas Boyd, who scored the game-winning basket with five seconds in regulation, credited his performance to May.

“I don’t know where I’d be without this guy,” Boyd said postgame through tears, with an arm around May. “I love him.”

Minutes before Boyd’s emotional postgame interview, the Owls were on the ropes. What was a back-and-forth affair throughout left Memphis ahead 63-62 with 1:28 in regulation. 

Sophomore guard Alijah Martin tipped in a layup with 56 seconds to play, but Memphis answered right back with a tip-in of their own, leaving the Tigers ahead 65-64 with 34 seconds on the clock. 

A turnover by Memphis’ All-American guard Kendric Davis led to a jump ball in favor of FAU, setting up Boyd’s game-winner. 

With 5.5 seconds to play, Boyd caught the inbound pass, drove past a defender, and rattled in the layup to send FAU to the Round of 32 for the first time in program history.

“I told Coach in the timeout, I said, ‘Coach, I got it,’ I don’t know why I was feeling that way, but I just said, ‘Coach, let me get the ball,’” Boyd detailed. “I was going to shoot the 3, he jumped for the shot fake and Vlad had a great seal, allowed me to get to the rim. I just thought about finishing no matter what.”

Before the last second layup, impressive performances by both Giancarlo Rosado and Johnell Davis had them up by 10 in the first half, and helped keep them afloat late in the game.

Rosado, a sophomore forward, came off the bench and shot 100% from the field in the first half, before ending the night with a team-high 15 points. 

“Like I told Coach May in the locker room, I’m just serving,” said Rosado. “I’m just doing what I gotta do for my brothers. Scoring, rebounding, I’m just serving.”

Meanwhile, Davis, a sophomore guard, finished the night with 12 points, including back-to-back three-pointers late in the second half that tied the score at 60 apiece.

“Nelly stepped up,” said May, of the all-conference guard, who’s averaging a team-high 13.5 points per game. 

Even after watching his five-season tenure culminate in, arguably, the biggest win in school history, May hasn’t lost his trademark modesty, and laser focus, as the Owls look ahead to the Round of 32.

“Not really thinking about it at all,” said May, on how it feels to be the coach who led FAU to its first tournament victory. “All the focus is these guys enjoying the moment and moving. Turn the page in 15 minutes, 30 minutes and focus on FDU so we don’t leave an opportunity on the table.” 

The Owls second-round matchup with Fairleigh Dickinson is set for Sunday, March 17 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:45 pm and will be broadcast by truTV.

Cameron Priester is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @PriesterCameron