Dec. 30, 2006
BOCA RATON, FL (December 30, 2006) -- DeAndre Rice finished with 16 points, Avery Holley added 14 and Derrick Simmons scored 12, but the Florida Atlantic University men's basketball team couldn't pull out a victory at home against Sun Belt Conference power Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers left Boca Raton with a 93-83 victory.
Preseason SBC Player-of-the-Year Courtney Lee would play just six minutes, hobbled by an ankle injury, but WKU got 27 points from Ty Rogers and 23 off the bench from Orlando Mendez-Valdez as the two combined to go 9-for-15 from behind the arc.
"Toughness," was Head Coach Rex Walters' response to the difference in tonight's game. "They had it in the second half and we did not."
Western Kentucky would score the game's first seven points, but FAU would respond and draw the game even at 16 with 13:23 remaining in the first frame. A three-pointer by Rice would give FAU a five point lead three minutes later at 23-18.
After the Hilltoppers had drawn back within one at 26-25 with 8:50 remaining, the Owls scored the next nine points to take a 10-point lead, 35-25, at the 7:31 mark, capped by an Avery Holley three-pointer and a pair of technical free throws by Sean Alarcon.
The Owls would maintain the 10-point margin until just before the five-minute mark, when Western Kentucky went on a 9-0 run to draw within one, 43-42, at the 3:55 mark. A three-point play by Graham with nine seconds left in the half gave the Owls a five-point lead at the half, 50-45.
Simmons had a team-high 11 at the half while Graham added 10 off the bench. Sean Alarcon hit a pair of threes and two technical free throws to give him eight at the break. Brent Crews had a game-high five rebounds after 20 minutes to go with seven points. WKU's Rogers led all scorers with 16 at the break.
With the Owls down by five, 65-60 with 13 minutes remaining, Rice hit a three in the corner to bring FAU within two, 65-63. The two teams traded buckets until the 9:23 mark and the Owls still trailing by two, 68-66. Butch Joynter hit a three-pointer with 8:50 remaining in regulation to spread the lead to 71-66.
Western Kentucky's Daniel Emerson hit a layup and was fouled with 7:06 remaining, but missed the free-throw attempt, and WKU had a 75-68 lead. Graham would cut the lead to four immediately with a three the next trip, but Mendez-Valdez answered with a three of his own to stretch the lead back to seven, 78-71, with 5:45 left to play.
Rice would once again rise to the occasion, hitting a layup despite being fouled. He would convert the free throw and bring the Owls back within six, 80-74. Another Mendez-Valez three pointer at the five minute mark would return the WKU lead to 85-76.
Another three by Rice would keep the Owls in the game, 85-79 with four minutes left. Two Holley free throws would cut the lead to four, 85-81, with 3:45 to play. Western Kentucky would throw the ball away on the ensuing possession, but Graham was called for a charge on the other end.
A trio of made free throws would put the Owls down seven, 88-81, and Parmer would be called for a charge on the other end on the ensuing possession, his fifth foul. Western Kentucky was called for an over-and-back violation with 1:04 left, and Graham would be fouled on a drive, putting him at the line for two free-throw attempts with 56 seconds remaining. He would make both, bringing the Owls within five, 88-83.
Joyner would make a layup with 23 seconds remaining to seal the victory for Western Kentucky, giving the team a 91-83 lead.
Offensive rebounds killed FAU (6-7, 2-1 SBC) in the game, especially down the stretch. Western Kentucky (11-4, 3-1 SBC) held a 23-9 offensive rebound edge, and a 47-30 rebounding edge overall.
"The offensive rebounds really hurt us," Rice said. "Our transition defense was also a problem tonight, which led to open looks and some of those offensive rebounds for put-backs." The Owls will hit the road to face New Orleans and South Alabama next week as SBC play continues.
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