Florida Atlantic had a trip to the national title game in its grasp and one shot changed it all, falling short on a San Diego State buzzer-beater by a score of 72-71.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. I’m not dwelling on it much,” Nick Boyd said postgame. “I mean, we put FAU on the map; that’s most important to me. When I came to this school and I committed here, I said this is what we’re going to do.”
They did exactly that in one season — put FAU on the map. The Owls led all of Division I in wins with 35. For just under 32 minutes of the Final Four, they had the lead. No Florida Atlantic team had even won an NCAA Tournament game before earlier this March, they won four.
Through postgame, the bunch remained stoic. Rather than looking back at how they lost, they looked ahead to the next season. Boyd and Alijah Martin mentioned plenty of time how they’re ready to come back to school and play next season.
“We’re just ready to get better, keep working. And we’ve got a group of guys that are coming back, hungry, determined, and the sky’s the limit for us,” Boyd said postgame.
Florida Atlantic came out hungry on Saturday afternoon. After trailing after the first two media timeouts, they stretched their lead out to as many as ten before halftime.
Although sophomore Vlad Goldin’s work didn’t exactly translate on the stat sheet, he had a major defensive impact. The prowess he inserted allowed many open lanes and 3-point shots for the Owls, shooting at a 53.6% clip heading into the break.
Florida Atlantic would stretch the lead out to 14 right out of the break.
“We were just motivated. We’d been in that position so many times throughout the year,” San Diego State’s Matt Bradley said postgame. “That was nothing to us. We knew we had time on our side.”
They had just that as they continued chopping into the lead, making it a one-possession game heading into the final media timeout. After trading baskets back and forth, San Diego State got the last laugh with a buzzer-beater to send them to the national championship time for the first time in school history.
“I was in shock when the buzzer went off. But, I mean, it’s the game of basketball,” Boyd said postgame. “And it just didn’t go our way this night. Like I said, we got the whole team coming back. Owls ain't going nowhere.”
Five Conference USA teams (all moving to the American next season) made the postseason and finished with an impressive 17-2 record including the NIT Title and the CBI crown.
Florida Atlantic ended its season with a 35-4 record and will more than likely be ranked in next season's preseason AP Top 25 poll.