GAME NOTES: The Florida Atlantic Owls continue their season-long, three-game road swing on Saturday afternoon, as they travel to Monroe to take on the ULM Warhawks in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
FAU's season has been defined by its streaky play. After losing three of its first four games, the team went on to win four of its next five only to fall right back into a three-game skid. The Owls were able to snap out of their most recent funk on Thursday night with an impressive 61-54 conference win at Troy.
After winning just three games a season ago, the 2012-13 campaign hasn't been much kinder to ULM here in the early going, as its only win in eight tries came over Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 10, 68-61, in overtime. The Warhawks have dropped three in a row since that triumph. They fought hard in their latest game at UAB on Dec. 20, but eventually fell in a 76-69 final.
FAU has won five of the six all-time meetings with ULM, which includes a dominating 58-30 performance in Boca Raton last season.
The Owls trailed Troy by as many as 10 points on Thursday night, but thanks in large part to an 18-0 second-half run, they were able to pull away late for the seven-point win. Although they shot just 40.9 percent from the floor, their play at the defensive end was the real story, as they held Troy to a lowly 28.3 percent shooting. Greg Gantt was fantastic in the triumph, tallying 26 points and eight rebounds, and in the process he became the program's all- time leading scorer (1,582 points). Pablo Bertone also put together a strong performance, shooting 8-of-14 from the field on his way to a career-high 21 points. Gantt has been the league's most prolific scorer this season, netting 22.1 ppg thanks in large part to his great shooting from 3-point range (39- of-95, .411). Stefan Moody has been a solid second scoring option with 15.0 ppg, and after missing the last three games while serving a suspension, he is listed as probable for Saturday's matchup.
Few teams have struggled as much at the offensive end of the court as ULM, which connects on just 38.5 percent of its field goal attempts and ranks in the bottom-10 nationally in scoring (54.9 ppg). The Warhawks actually put together one of their best performances of the season against UAB, shooting 50 percent from the field (including 10-of-20 from 3-point range), but they went just 5-of-13 from the foul line and committed 19 turnovers as they let the game slip away in the second half. Trent Mackey was impressive from beyond the arc (5-of-10) on his way to 17 points, while Kyle Koszuta provided a spark off the bench with 15 points. Marcelis Hansberry added 11 points in the setback, while Jayon James tallied six points, eight assists and 11 rebounds. On the season, Amos Olatayo is the leading scorer with 13.0 ppg, but he has missed four games with a leg injury and remains questionable for this matchup. Mackey (11.8 ppg) has acted as the top option in Olatayo's absence, and James contributes across the board with 8.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 4.8 apg.
FAU appears to be on the upswing after its latest performance, and it shouldn't have much of a problem dismissing the Warhawks, who haven't shown the ability to stick around against quality competition this season.