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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Men’s Basketball: FAU gives Liberty their first loss with an 83-58 victory

The Owls douse the Flames with a waterfall of points. FAU had 46 points in the paint and shot 50% from three to defeat Liberty 83-58.
FAU+junior+guard+Alijah+Martin+%28%2315%29+going+up+for+a+layup+against+Liberty+redshirt+junior+forward+Shiloh+Robinson+%28%2333%29+during+the+Owls+83-58+victory+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+30%2C+2023.
Matt Vogdes
FAU junior guard Alijah Martin (#15) going up for a layup against Liberty redshirt junior forward Shiloh Robinson (#33) during the Owls’ 83-58 victory on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.

After suffering an upset loss to Bryant at home that threatened to derail their season early on, FAU men’s basketball has already appeared to have bounced back in full strength. #13 FAU (6-1) cruised to three straight wins in Orlando to become the ESPN Events Invitational champions before returning to Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena where they pulled out a dominating 83-58 victory against the Liberty University (6-1) Flames on the opening day of the Field of 68 Classic.

Ranked 13th in CBS Sports’ David Cobb’s power rankings, Liberty entered the matchup winners of six straight averaging over 85 points a game before being dealt the 25-point blowout loss by FAU. 

“Extremely proud of the way we handled the recent success in Orlando. I thought our guys had a great mindset in preparation for Liberty, and that’s not difficult to do because of the respect we have for their program, their staff, their players,” said head coach Dusty May in his opening statement after the game. “We were so happy with our defensive performance tonight.  It came down to the little things, quickness to the ball, defensive energy, and our guys played at a high, high level.”

The game started with FAU forcing Liberty into a shot-clock violation on their first offensive possession of the game. The first half would start slow offensively for both teams with each trading missed shots back and forth. 

The Owls had it in their game plan to establish junior center Vlad Goldin in the post early, hitting back-to-back floaters for a quick four points to take a 6-2 lead, 16:35 into the half. 

“Vlad is a load,” said May. Goldin would end the game with 18 points, seven rebounds, and two  blocks. He also finished the game a perfect four-for-four from the free throw line.

The team wouldn’t hit a three until 11:52 in the first half, going 0-3 until FAU senior guard Bryan Greenlee made a pull-up three off the dribble to make the score 16-10 FAU. 

The game remained close for the next three minutes. Liberty would cut FAU’s lead to three after junior guard Joseph Venzant threw down a vicious dunk over Goldin, making the score 18-15 with 9:29 left in the first half. 

After a minute of back-and-forth misses and turnovers, FAU would break out for 12 unanswered points, taking a commanding lead of 30-15 at the 5:31 mark. 

The Flames made back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to 13 with one minute left in the half, but FAU responded with four points of their own to go into halftime with a commanding 44-27 lead. 

“I thought [Greenlee], [Alijah Martin], [senior guard Jalen Gaffney] all got to the rim repeatedly and were very efficient finishing around the basket. I think we took advantage of the right matchups,” said Coach May. The Flames starting lineup featured no player taller than 6 ‘7. Thus, FAU would end the half with more points in the paint (28) then Liberty’s total points in the first half. 

The second half began with each team trading points for the first five minutes, making it impossible for Liberty to chip away at the lead FAU made in the first half. After a layup by FAU junior forward Giancarlo Rosado, the lead surmounted to 20, 55-35 FAU with 15:02 left to go. 

Both teams played a physical game, resulting in 36 total free throws and 17 personal fouls for each team. However, FAU won the free throw battle, making it to the line 21 times to Liberty’s 14. 

Liberty would spend the next eight minutes trying to cut the lead, making the game 62-48 with 8:53 left in the game. However, the Flames wouldn’t get any closer to FAU. 

After a steal by Greenlee and some calculated ball movement on the fast break by the Owls, junior guard Alijah Martin found Goldin down low for a slam dunk to make the score 70-50 with 5:42 left in the game. 

Liberty had no response to this, and the Owls kept their foot on the gas pedal to take their largest lead of the night, 79-50. The bench unit for FAU would enter the game, signaling that the game was over with 2:21 left to play. 

“They are a special team. I think if they had an SEC (South Eastern Conference) or an ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) logo on their jersey, they’d probably be a top five team [in the nation] because of what they’ve done and what they’re doing. They really are elite,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. 

Martin led the team in scoring with 20 points, going 8-13 from the field and 3-4 from three. 

“I really focus on shooting, but of course, you got to work on your [overall] shot as well. Working on my handle, getting to the rim, being able to make tough shots,” said Martin.

Despite this standout performance, May jokingly said it was unacceptable.

“We’re gonna get back in the gym and get him right, 75% from three, unacceptable. First order of business Saturday,” said May.

After getting in the gym with Martin, Coach May and the Owls will have their second order of business Saturday when they play the College of Charleston Cougars (3-3) on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena. The game will stream on ESPNU.

JD Delcastillo is a Staff Writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected] or reach out on Instagram @jd.delcastillo.

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About the Contributor
JD Delcastillo, Sports Editor
JD is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in sports studies and digital marketing. Since high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the sports industry. He's published work in magazines, started his own sports newsletter, and currently interns with ESPN West Palm.

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