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Men’s Basketball: FAU falls to Memphis 78-74 in tightly contested match

In their first matchup since FAU stunned Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the catalyst for their miraculous Final Four run, the Tigers got their revenge 345 days later.  Despite a contested back-and forth game with 14 lead changes, the Florida Atlantic Owls (21-7, 11-4 AAC) fell 78-74 to the University of...

In their first matchup since FAU stunned Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the catalyst for their miraculous Final Four run, the Tigers got their revenge 345 days later. 

Despite a contested back-and forth game with 14 lead changes, the Florida Atlantic Owls (21-7, 11-4 AAC) fell 78-74 to the University of Memphis Tigers (20-8, 9-6 AAC) Sunday afternoon at the Fedex Forum in Memphis, Tenn. 

After FAU went into halftime with a 31-30 lead, they’d trail for the final 16:22 minutes of the game. A Johnell Davis layup tied the game up 62-62 in the final seven minutes, but the Owls were unable to secure stops on the defensive end, and their comeback attempt proved futile. 

FAU had a hard time with protecting the ball with 13 turnovers, which Memphis turned into 18 points. FAU has had double-digit turnovers in all their losses this season except when they lost in overtime to UAB with nine.

“We knew coming into the game they’re one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers… but it’s not as if they were all enforced,” said FAU head coach Dusty May. “They are extremely tall, long, athletic… they forced some of them and there were a few of ours that were simply, I think, bad decisions.” 

Six players for the Owls had at least one turnover, along with a poor three-point shooting performance. The team shot 25% on 28 attempts from deep and missed 11 layups on 27 attempts.

On the positive side, center Vladislav Goldin was a perfect nine of nine from the field and went 4-5 from the free throw line to score 22 points.

Vlad Goldin going for the layup in FAU’s 78-74 loss against the Memphis Tigers

Before the game, Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway gave his team extra motivation by making them watch highlights from their matchup with FAU in the NCAA tournament last year. He also showed Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who was on the Kansas State team that lost to FAU in the Elite Eight last year, videos of FAU mimicking their patented “low down dance” that they went viral for during their run. 

“Malcolm [Dandridge] and Jayden [Hardaway] were here last year, and they said ‘let’s get them out of the gym early, because they’re not like that,’ so we had to do it for our coach and our teammates,” said Memphis forward David Jones. 

With FAU crushing Memphis’ hopes to go on an NCAA tournament run last year and consequently turning that into a Final Four run of their own, the Owls’ move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference guaranteed that these teams would meet again, with fans and alumni from both universities eager to build a rivalry for years to come.

After being asked by the media if this matchup is brewing into a rivalry, Hardaway let out a deep sigh before answering.

“I think you could say that,” said Hardaway. Both teams met last year and it went down to the wire. We met this year and it goes down to the wire… Florida Atlantic going to the Final Four last year, they’re the bar, they’ve tasted [success]. So you could say that, yes.”

May took a different approach to answering the question, as it was a similar question asked after FAU’s loss to USF.

“People get so sensitive with the word ‘rivalry’ these days,” May said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the social media era or what. As long as we both build very competitive basketball teams, I could see these games becoming extremely interesting going forward. Rivalries typically take time to develop and happen organically… Usually proximity is the case, or a good, healthy, competitive spirit.”

FAU has a six-day break before they’ll look to bounce back at home against the Tulane University Green Wave (13-12, 3-9 AAC) on Saturday, March 2. There is no confirmation on where the game will air at the time of publication.


Memphis won the opening tip and missed their first shot, but Davis earned his first turnover of the game on the first offensive possession for the Owls. This led to the Tigers striking first with a corner three, but Brandon Weatherspoon responded with a step-back three of his own. 

Back-and-forth scoring between both teams saw FAU with a 9-8 lead after the first media timeout, 15:26 on the clock. FAU held a lead after every timeout in the first half, taking their largest lead of the night with a Davis layup making the score 24-16 with 6:05 left in the half. 

Memphis slowly chipped away at FAU’s lead, and a three-pointer by Memphis’ Jones made it a one point game at the half, FAU leading 31-30. 

At halftime, Goldin had 12 points on five of five shooting, while Nick Boyd and Jalen Gaffney had combined for 0-6 shooting. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, with Memphis shooting 37% and FAU 41% from the field. 

While the Owls were winning the rebound battle 21-16, they were losing the turnover battle 8-3 at this point.

FAU opened up the second half with a turnover which resulted in a fastbreak layup for Tomlin and giving Memphis a temporary lead. For the next three and a half minutes, both teams exchanged buckets, tugging for a lead larger than one.

After a 5-0 run by Memphis gave them a four point lead, 43-39, with 16:10 left in the game, the Tigers held onto this lead for the rest of the match, but not without pushback from the Owls.

Five minutes later, after chipping away at the Memphis lead, a driving layup by Boyd gave him his first points of the game and tied it 50-50 with 11:05 to go. 

This lead was short lived, as a few possessions later Memphis went on a 6-0 scoring run. Davis tried responding with back-to-back layups to tie the game back up, but the Tigers kept retaliating with unanswered scoring runs. 

Memphis took the largest lead of the game, 73-63, with 3:36 left in the game. Four free throws for Davis kept FAU alive, but they hadn’t made a shot in over six minutes since he tied the game. 

The Tigers had an eight point lead with less than 88 seconds left in the game, but a Weatherspoon three ended FAU’s field goal drought and kept them alive. 

FAU forced Memphis to turn the ball over with a full-court trap, Davis drew a foul and hit both of his free throws to make it a three-point game. 

FAU forced another turnover due to the trap, and had possession with 53 seconds left on the clock. Scrambling to get a good look for a shot, Weatherspoon put up a contested three with 21 seconds left and missed, forcing FAU to foul and essentially putting the game out of reach. 

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

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