BASKETBALL

Florida Atlantic opens men's basketball season with blowout of Lynn University

Zach Weinberger
Special to The Post

BOCA RATON — The Florida Atlantic men's basketball team opened its 2022-23 season Monday night and the outcome was never in doubt as the Owls defended home court against the Lynn Knights, 81-46.

Even with the lopsided performance, fifth-year head coach Dusty May said there are improvements to be made.

“Good start to the season, I thought we played hard, still a lot to clean up that we'll have to do on the practice court before we go on the road to these next two SEC teams,” May said. “Overall, I’m happy with our team spirit and our competitive nature, obviously we got to take care of the ball a little bit better and I think we will in time.”

The Owls travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss on Nov. 11 before playing Florida. 

Here are three takeaways from the win:

Playing without guard Michael Forrest

When the starting lineups came out before tip-off, it was jarring to not see Forrest. Now in his senior season, he is climbing the all-time FAU leaderboard in a few categories.

He is eighth in FAU history in scoring with 1,314 points and third in three-pointers made with 251.

Forrest was present courtside with his team, but he wasn’t dressed to play. A university spokesperson told The Palm Beach Post that he “was not available tonight” after asking if it was an injury.

“Hopefully Ole Miss, hopefully tomorrow he’s back at it, but it’s day-to-day,” May said to The Post after the game.

Sophomore guard Alijah Martin slams home two points during Monday night's rout of Lynn.

In his absence, FAU guards Johnell Davis and Nick Boyd played more and delivered. Davis led the team with 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Boyd, who was redshirted last season, recorded 10 points, five assists and three rebounds. 

Boyd said that Forrest is a huge part of this team and they had to step up in his absence.

“Mike is the heart and soul of this program. He’s been here the longest. He put a lot of work in, he's one of the leaders in scoring, he does everything for us,” Boyd said. “So missing Mike is big for us, but he's out there supporting us on the sideline, so it’s always great just to have him around, regardless if he's out there or not.”

Davis and Boyd came up huge with their guard play, especially since FAU’s best player, Alijah Martin, had nine points with nine rebounds. 

Sloppy first half for the Owls

While the final score might allude to a perfect performance, the first half was anything but that. 

It could be due to “first-game jitters” as Boyd said post-game, but May mentioned there were multiple variables in the first 20 minutes.

“We shot a couple rushed deep threes early when we didn't really need to,” May said. “But I thought we got good opportunities, we just didn't shoot really well. I thought Alijah [Martin] and [Brandon] Weatherspoon had some really good looks, but they didn't go down.”

Besides the poor shooting early, FAU turned the ball over 10 times. Against a conference opponent, that could possibly kill any chances of winning the game. 

Toward the last few minutes of the first half, FAU started to find its groove and opened up a 42-16 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes. 

Davis and Boyd both said they and the rest of the team got more comfortable as the game went on. FAU shot 51 percent from the field and further dominated the second half.

Tough road schedule ahead

Getting a win in the opener could prove to be important as FAU’s next two games will be against Ole Miss and the University of Florida. 

Davis said that their defense will be crucial playing against the two SEC teams, stressing that it could be one of the main parts coming out with an upset. 

May said it’ll be a good chance for the guys to really come together as a unit and try to fight adversity.

“It's a chance for us to really bond together on the road. We'll stay for an extended trip," May said. "We'll play at Ole Miss, and then we'll bus to Birmingham that night. We'll practice the next day, bus to Atlanta and then we’ll catch a flight from Atlanta to Gainesville on Sunday.

“We’ll have a lot of time to watch film, spend time with each other and really grow as a group and learn a lot about our team.”