New York City- In the second game of the NCAA New York Regional at Madison Square Garden, FAU took on Tennessee. The opener went to Kansas State 98-93 in overtime over Michigan State in what deserves to be labeled a true classic.
First half: One of the key considerations for the Owls was pace. Tennessee averages 65 possessions while the Owls check in at 68. Speeding the Vols up would be in FAU’s best interest.The first four minutes saw Rick Barnes’ club get out to a 7-5 lead. Tennessee is number one in the nation in defensive efficiency at 87. It shows as early in the game Dusty May’s Owls are having difficulty running their half court sets. Tennessee does a great job rotating in their man to man. Get past your first defender and someone else is waiting in the wings. As the half played on, FAU had trouble with Tennessee’s size inside. Uros Plavsic (7’1") and Jonas Aidoo (6’11’) were a tough matchup. Offensively, the Owls start looking for some penetration and kick outs to the perimeter for an open three. Relying on a diet of three point attempts is not a suggested diet.
Half: Tennessee 27 FAU 22
In a 29 possession contest, Tennessee held a 90-79 edge in offensive efficiency. Plavsic led all scorers with eight points. FAU was paced by Alijah Martin with six.
Second half: The first four minutes were ‘won’ by FAU 7-6. Significant to get that early momentum going. Inside established, Tennessee went outside with Santiago Vescovi burying two three pointers in the first four minutes. To FAU’s credit, they did not allow Tennessee to gain separation. Each time the Vols threatened to pull away, FAU would answer. Johnell Davis of FAU had success getting in the lane on dribble penetration. That was vital for the Owls on the offensive end. At the under 12 media time out, Tennessee held a 39-35 lead. Two Michael Forrest three pointers and a paint penetration gave FAU a four point lead with just under ten to play. The Garden erupted. The lead was seven with just under eight to play. The Owls were on a 15-2 run over the last 4:45. The narrative reversed. FAU led by seven, threatening to pull away. Tennessee came up when it mattered, not allowing FAU to expand the lead. Regardless, Dusty May’s Owls maintained their lead. One minute to go FAU led by seven. Now, the foul shooting game. With four seconds remaining, FAU still held a seven point edge and there was a last trip to the monitor. The FAU faithful are ecstatic as the officials review. And the party is just begging for the red clad faithful.
Final: FAU 62 Tennessee 55
Offensive efficiency: FAU 107, Tennessee 95
Tennessee's defense was mentioned but credit FAU's ability to defend by holding the Vols 16 below their season average 111 offensive efficiency. Rick Barnes’ Vols committed only six turnovers but were limited to 33% shooting from the floor. FAU shot 42%, while connecting on 39% (5-13) from beyond the arc in the second half.
Johnell Davis of FAU was the game high scorer with 15 points. Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo scored 10 apiece for the Vols.
Tennessee wrapped up the season at 34-3. FAU is now 25-11 and 40 minutes from a Final Four.