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


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


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


Men’s Basketball: Owls bounce back in Boca with 79-64 win over ECU

After a back and forth game, the Owls were able to run away with the win after a 14-1 scoring run in the final five minutes. This marks FAU’s first win in the American Athletic Conference.
Jaden Wiston
FAU Junior Center Vladislav Goldin (#50) wins the opening tip for the Owls en route to their 79-64 win over East Carolina University.

After a stunning loss to FGCU in the final game of the non-conference schedule, the Florida Atlantic Owls (11-3, 1-0 AAC) brought in the new year by securing their first win in the American Athletic Conference by defeating the East Carolina Pirates (ECU) (7-7, 0-1 AAC) 79-64.

The Owls were only down 36-37 at halftime despite allowing ECU to shoot 54% from the field and 57% from three. They’d take back the lead with 16 minutes left in the second half and hold onto it for the rest of the game. 

Although ECU was close to mounting a comeback in the last five minutes with a 65-63 FAU lead, the Owls closed the game with a 14-1 scoring run, winning in emphatic fashion. 

“It’s nice to get back home and start conference play, begin a new chapter in the American Athletic Conference and start off the right way,” said head coach Dusty May. “It was a back and forth game, and I thought our guys just stayed the course and kept battling. [We] found some creative ways to get stops, come up with loose basketballs, and then obviously made the plays down the stretch to win.

Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis both scored 20 points on 54% shooting to lift the team to a win. Bryan Greenlee contributed 13 points off the bench, shooting 50%. 

“We just stayed the course. When [Martin and I] are clicking, we just try to get everybody else clicking so that we can dominate the whole game,” said Davis. 

FAU will look to stay undefeated in conference play as they play their second road game of the year against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (6-7, 0-1 AAC) on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 4 p.m. The game will stream on ESPN+.

The FAU Men’s basketball team in a quick huddle before an inbound pass in their match against ECU on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Jaden Wiston)


FAU won the opening tip, and Davis made a three off a screen to score on the game’s first possession. After forcing ECU into a missed shot, Davis scored again on the other end to get  quick five points.

Junior ECU guard RJ Felton responded with a five point scoring run of his own to tie the game up 5-5 in the first two minutes. 

After the tie, ECU held a lead for the next 14 minutes, with their largest of the night being up eight with 9:56 to play in the first half, 23-15. 

FAU’s plan, May said, was to force the Pirates to play one-on-one basketball and take tough, unassisted shots. This was backfiring as ECU was hitting a majority of those tough shots, ending the game with only six assists.

“[The coaching staff] actually had a spirited debate in one of the timeouts because in the last three or four years there’s never been a game where we felt like, man, they’re exploiting what we want to give up,” said May.

After that eight point lead, Martin scored back-to-back threes in seven seconds thanks to a drawn foul by Vladislav Goldin after the first one, giving the Owls another possession. He had missed his first three attempts from deep prior.

“It definitely made me feel good. I credit my teammates for finding me and pat myself on the back for knocking them down,” said Martin. 

Those points stopped ECU from going up big in the first half, and waking the rest of the team up to score. A dunk by Martin cut ECU’s lead to one, and a layup by Rosado gave FAU a 33-32 lead with 3:23 left to go in the first half.

This wide open dunk by junior forward Alijah Martin, thanks to a pass from senior guard Bryan Greenlee, cut ECU’s lead to 1. (Jaden Wiston)

After back and forth scoring,  ECU  entered the half with a 36-35 lead. The Owls had an uncharacteristically rough shooting performance in the first half, only hitting five of their 14 three-point attempts. They were also only able to draw two free throws, compared to ECU’s eight. 

Coming out of the half, ECU forced a turnover on Davis thanks to their 2-3 zone defense, which gave the Owls trouble all night. FAU found a hole in the zone the following possession, which led to a wide-open Davis three to tie the game up 38-38 in the first minute of the second half. 

It’s just repping it in practice a lot and knowing the plays we need to [against] the zone,” said Davis. 

An ECU three gave the Pirates the lead again, but Martin responded with a one-handed slam along the baseline to bring the crowd to its feet.

Alijah Martin attacks the baseline for a poster dunk over two defenders. (Jaden Wiston)

A putback layup by Goldin gave FAU a 44-43 lead at the 16-minute mark. FAU added to the lead for the next 11 minutes until ECU returned within two minutes with 5:06 left on the clock.

This began the 14-0 scoring run for FAU. The Owls hit their last four of five shots during this stretch while holding ECU scoreless in the last six and a half minutes of regulation. The Pirates’  only points came from free throws.

“We were there. We put ourselves in position. I thought for 35 minutes we executed what we tried to execute,” said East Carolina head coach Michael Schwartz. “… but in the last five, six minutes, they exploded like a volcano. They just erupted,” the AP reported.  

Greenlee put the finishing touches on the run by hitting the game’s final shot and giving FAU the largest lead of the night when it mattered most.

The Owl’s bench celebrating Bryan Greenlee’s final shot. Despite junior forward Giancarlo Rosado throwing up three fingers, the shot was ruled a long two. (Jaden Wiston)

JD Delcastillo is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected] or DM on Instagram @jd.delcastillo or X (Twitter) @jd_delcastillo. 

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About the Contributor
JD Delcastillo
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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