Dec. 28, 2006
MIAMI, FL - DeAndre Rice put the Florida Atlantic University men's basketball team on his back for the final minute of play against Florida International, and helped the Owls come away with a 68-66 victory in Miami, FL on Thursday.
"It was a great effort from our guys. We didn't shoot great in the first half but we played hard on defense to stay in the game," Head Coach Rex Walters said. "DeAndre, Jeff (Parmer) and Paul Graham really stepped up offensively."
With 39.1 seconds left in regulation and the Owls trailing by two, Rice hit a layup and was fouled by FIU's Alex Galindo. The Flint, MI native would hit the free-throw attempt to put FAU up by one, 65-64. Tension built as the Golden Panthers would take a one point lead with 23 seconds left following an Elvis Lora layup, 66-65.
Rice would once again rise to the challenge. The senior guard, playing in just his third game this season, would score his biggest three points of the night on a three-pointer from the left corner with just 5.9 seconds showing on the clock, giving FAU a 68-66 lead.
"DeAndre welcomes the ball in crucial situation he has a confidence about him," Walters said. "When the ball left his hands he knew it was going in. Good players make you look like a good coach and he made me look like a good coach tonight."
The Golden Panthers would have a chance to tie the game, as Lora was fouled with 0.7 seconds left in regulation. He would miss both, and Derrick Simmons grabbed the rebound to seal the victory.
Lora led FIU with 22 points off the bench and Alex Galindo added 20. Johwen Villegas led all rebounders with nine.
FAU shot 60.9 percent in the second half to finish at 42.6 percent for the game. FIU finished at 46.8 percent.
Using its 10th different starting lineup in 12 games this season, the Owls fell behind by eight, 20-12, after a sloppy opening 10 minutes by both teams. Several turnovers and missed layups, along with the fact that FAU was in the double penalty, made it difficult for a pace to develop in the contest.
FAU would be the first to respond, surging on a 21-5 run sparked by the play of Parmer, who scored 11 points in the run. The Golden Panthers would respond with a 9-0 run of their own, holding the Owls without a field goal over the final 3:47 of the first half. Villegas hit a jumper at the horn to give FIU a slim halftime lead, 34-33.
The second half was back and forth early, but with the Owls trailing by two with 12:41 left, 44-42, FAU went on a 10-0 run to take a 52-44 lead with 11:12 left in regulation. Graham scored four during the stretch while Rice and Parmer each added three.
FIU would respond, chipping away at the lead over the next 8 minutes, and took a one-point lead on a pair of Marlon Bright free throws with 3:17 left to play, 61-60.
Neither team would score until Graham's layup with 1:22 remaining to give FAU a 62-61 lead. Simmons, who finished with a career-high three blocks, would swat a Chris Fuller layup attempt, but Galindo would gather the rebound and drain a three to give the Golden Panthers a two-point lead, 64-62.
The rest of the game belonged to Rice. He would score FAU's final six points, and helped FAU improve to 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Sanchez Hughley made his FAU debut off the bench, returning from an injury. He played four minutes and went 0-for-1 from the floor, 0-for-2 from the line in four minutes.
"Our bench really helped us tonight. They gave us good energy and we feel like we have a few more weapons in the arsenal now," Walters said. "It gives me more confidence that we won't lose much when we have to go to it."
The Owls (6-6, 2-0 SBC) have won two in a row and six-of-eight while picking up their second road win of the season. The win is FAU's third in four games against FIU, three of those games being played at Pharmed Arena, where FAU is now 3-8 all-time. It is the first time during the 2006-07 campaign the Owls have been at .500 after starting 0-4.
FAU will now return home to face Western Kentucky, a Sun Belt Conference divisional winner from last season, on Saturday at 7 p.m.