Nov. 16, 2002
FORT COLLINS, CO -- Earnest Crumbley scored 24 points to lead Florida Atlantic University (1-0) to a 71-66 victory over Cleveland State University (0-1) Saturday in the opening round of the Dell BCA Invitational in Fort Collins, CO.
Crumbley went 9-for-12 from the field and scored 15 second half points as FAU won its first season-opener since 1994.
Cleveland State jumped out to an early 19-13 lead as both teams struggled from the field in the opening minutes. The Owls came back to tie the game at 24-24 on a Crumbley jumper with 2:57 left in the half. A three-pointer by Jeff Cowans with 1:09 left in the half gave FAU a 27-24 lead heading into the intermission. Cowans finished with 14 points.
In the second half, CSU's Jermaine Robinson and Modibo Niakate opened with back-to-back three-pointers to give the Vikings a 30-27 lead with 19:07 to play. The Owls promptly went on an 11-3 run over the next 5:43 to lead 38-33 with 13:24 to play. A lay-up by Cowans with 6:25 remaining gave FAU a 56-46 lead. A Niakate layup with 3:32 left pulled CSU to within 60-55. However, a 6-1 run by the Owls, capped off by a pair of free throws by Cowans gave FAU a 66-56 lead with 1:50 to play.
The Vikings would chip away in the closing moments and pull to within 69-66 with eight seconds left on a jumper by Percell Coles, but two free throws by Crumbley with five seconds remaining sealed the victory for FAU.
"I'm just so proud of our players," said FAU head coach Sidney Green. "They stayed together throughout and kept their poise." "This is a big win for FAU to start the season," added Green.
FAU shot 61-percent in the second half on its way to 48-percent for the game. Cleveland State managed 46-percent. The Vikings outrebounded FAU 39-31.
The Owls were able to take advantage of 25 Cleveland State turnovers as well as 12-for-27 shooting by the Vikings at the free throw line.
"I thought our defense and conditioning were keys to our win," said Green. "We came out a day early and got accustomed to the high altitude, and that really helped us in our half court defense."
FAU shot 5-for-11 from beyond the arc including a 3-for-5 effort by Crumbley. For Crumbley, the 24 points tied the third best individual mark in the history of the BCA Invitational. Cowans' 14 points puts him at 800 for his career, seventh in FAU history.
Avery Headley scored nine for the Owls while Drew Skeeter had seven. Robert Williams tossed in six points, and Nick Neumann scored five points to go along with his team-high nine rebounds. Cleveland State was led by Niakate's 17 points. Tahric Gosley added 14 while Jermaine Robinson had 13.
Florida Atlantic next faces host Colorado State Monday night at 9:30pm EDT. The tournament takes Sunday off before resuming play Monday with Cleveland State taking on IPFW at 7:00pm EDT. FAU finishes the invitational Tuesday against IPFW.