The two best teams in Conference USA play showed there isn’t much difference between them on Thursday night in Boca Raton, Florida. The hometown team proved to be a bucket better as FAU came away with an 88-86 C-USA victory over UAB in a game that wasn’t determined until the final tick on the clock.
“If you had no skin in the game, I’m sure it was somewhat enjoyable to watch because both teams made shots,” UAB head coach Andy Kennedy said on his postgame UAB radio appearance with David Crane and Mo Finley. “We go 10 for 20 from 3, they go 10 for 28. We come on the road and shoot 49%, have positive assist-to-turnover ratio and score 86 points. You feel pretty good about it, but we have not sat down and guarded the ball yet. It puts us in rotations and against guys who can knock it down, ultimately that will put you in harm's way and that’s what happened tonight.”
No one had a better game on Thursday night than FAU guard Johnell Davis, who averaged 9.3 points and had a career-high of 20 points entering the game. On Thursday, He had 36 points, hitting 11 of 17 from the field, 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
“When they needed a basket, they went to him,” Kennedy said. “He got big basket after big basket. Credit to that kid.”
Not surprisingly, it was Davis, who scored the final 10 points of the game for the Owls, making the biggest plays at the end of the game.
UAB (12-3 overall, 3-1 C-USA) tied the game at 84-84 with 36.5 seconds left on a follow shot by Javian Davis. FAU got the ball in Johnell Davis’ hands on the ensuing possession and he drove to the basket for a basket to give the Owls (13-1 overall, 4-0 C-USA) the lead with 15.3 seconds remaining. UAB wasted a chance to either tie the game or take the lead when Eric Gaines threw the ball away near midcourt.
The Blazers fouled Davis with 6.6 seconds left and he gave his team an 88-84 lead with two free throws. Jordan "Jelly" Walker drove for a layup with 1.4 seconds left and Kennedy called a timeout. KJ Buffen stole the inbound pass and shoveled a pass to Gaines but the horn sounded before he could get a shot off.
“The way that we closed the half and the way we closed the game, for an experienced as a team we have, was a little disappointing,” Kennedy said.
UAB took a 39-35 lead with 1:20 left in the first half on Ledarrius Brewer’s third 3-pointer of the half. But, they gave up a Davis 3-pointer 14 seconds later, missed a pair of layup attempts and gave up an And-1 alley-oop to fall behind 41-39. UAB was able to salvage a halftime tie on a bucket by Gaines with 1.4 seconds left, but he was fouled on the play and missed the free throw.
In a game that included 14 ties and 18 lead changes, giving up any points was costly.
On the positive side, Javian Davis had a strong game, contributing 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 at the free throw line. Ledarrius Brewer coming back with a solid effort after missing three games with a broken bone in his left hand was also crucial.
Walker had a team-high 21 points but never really got into a rhythm. He was 7-of-18 from the field, 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and 3-of-4 at the line. Gaines had 15 points and five assists.
Kennedy was disappointed in his team’s rebounding and foul shooting. FAU had a 39-30 advantage on the boards and UAB shot 12-of-18 at the line.
“Our edge, man, it’s been a theme for me all year,” Kennedy said. “Our edge has got to get better.”
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