COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)Nicholas Boyd drove to the basket through traffic and converted a floater with 2.5 seconds left to make history for Florida Atlantic.
The play by the second-year guard off an inbounds pass from Johnell Davis will go down in Florida Atlantic lore as it secured the first NCAA Tournament win in school history, 66-65 over Memphis in a rugged, back-and-forth game.
It was just the second trip to the tournament – and the first since 2002 – for the ninth-seeded Owls, who advanced to face a surprising opponent, No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, in the second round of the East Region. The Knights knocked off top seed Purdue in one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history.
Coach Penny Hardaway’s eighth-seeded Tigers (26-9) had the ball and a one-point lead with 19 seconds left, but a steal by Brandon Weatherspoon and a subsequent jump ball – Hardaway argued his team had called timeout before the tie-up – gave the Owls (32-3) a chance.
Boyd said he implored coach Dusty May to let him take the go-ahead shot.
“In the timeout, I said, ‘Coach, I got it,’” Boyd said. “I don’t know why I was feeling that way, but I just said, ‘Coach, let me get the ball.’ I caught it in the corner. I was going to shoot the 3. He jumped for the shot fake. And Vlad (Goldin) had a great seal, allowed me to get to the rim. I just thought about finishing no matter what.”
The fifth-year coach was good with that.
“Also, we felt like Memphis was really going to key on Davis and (Alijah) Martin, our two leading scorers, our two first-team all-leaguers. So we thought we could use them as a decoy,” May said. “And Nick is a very talented scorer. He got space in the corner, had a lot of room to work.”
Hardaway chucked a water bottle in frustration after Memphis let the game slip away.
“Crazy game from start to finish,” he said. “It hurts more giving up a layup for the win. You work the whole year talking about defense, and hang your hat on defense, we needed one stop. Couldn’t get that one stop.”
Giancarlo Rosado scored 15 points to lead FAU, and Davis had 12.
“It’s good – but we’re not done yet,” Rosado said. “We didn’t come here to win one game. We didn’t come here to win two games. We came to win it because that’s what we do. We’ve proved that we’re a Top 25 program. Half of the season we were Top 25. We’ve proved we’re supposed to be here. We’re not doing nothing we’re not supposed to be doing.”
Kendric Davis scored 16 points despite being hobbled by a second-half leg injury for Memphis. Davis also got into a shouting match with teammate Malcolm Dandridge, who shoved Davis during a second-half timeout.
DeAndre Williams added 13 points while playing most of the second half with four fouls for the Tigers, including a tip-in that put his team ahead 65-64 with 34 seconds left.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls from Boca Raton won the Conference USA title to make the tournament for the second time, 21 years after their first appearance. The school will move to the American Athletic Conference next season, where Memphis will be an annual foe.
Memphis: The Tigers led for most of the second half but couldn’t pull away.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” Kendric Davis said. “We worked hard all year to put ourselves in this position. And we just didn’t. Starts with me. I had a big turnover. You think about what you could have done. We didn’t get it done.”
SHOTS WON’T FALL
No player on either team made more than two 3-pointers. Not that they didn’t try, especially in the first half. Florida Atlantic was 8 for 28 and Memphis was 6 for 22 from beyond the arc. The teams combined for five 3-point tries in the second half as the game stayed tight.
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