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Two teams entered the court in Columbus on Sunday night looking for their school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in history.
The No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic Owls are going to head to New York for that, as they defeated No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, 78-70, to stop their Cinderella journey in the NCAA Tournament.
The FDU Knights came out hot in the second half, outscoring FAU 12-1 after being down seven to take a five-point lead. The game, a fast-paced bout between both teams, would go back-and-forth, but it was FAU that consistently had an answer for the Knights.
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Demetre Roberts #2 of the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights drives to the basket against Bryan Greenlee #4 of the Florida Atlantic Owls during the second half in the second round game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 19, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Once FDU began to bend, FAU broke them.
In the final five minutes, it was the Owls’ leading scorer, Johnell Davis, that took over and made sure their ticket was punched to the Big Apple. Davis hit two jumpers in a row to put the Owls up, 65-58, and he got to the line for two free throws as well.
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Demetre Roberts, who put on quite a show in the second half to lead the FDU Knights, got a bit cold down the stretch. And after a big Bryan Greenlee three-pointer to put FAU up eight, Davis got himself a steal on the ensuing FDU drive.
FDU never quite, as Ansley Almonor knocked in a three to cut the lead to six, but FAU eventually hit two more free throws and held out for the victory.
Davis finished the game with 29 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double, while playing well on the defensive end, too. He had five steals to lead his team.
Grant Singleton #4 of the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights celebrates a basket against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the second half in the second round game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 19, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Alijah Martin dropped 14 points for the Owls, while eight total FAU players scored in this game. They are a deep team that gets contributions from all over, which is why they were able to run with FDU’s hyper-aggressive pace the entire night.
Roberts went 8-of-22 from the field for 20 points, but he missed 10 of his 12 three-point attempts, which could’ve made a big difference. FDU also struggled to start the game, as they missed some easy opportunities at the rim.
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Sean Moore, the Knights’ Swiss Army knife in the huge upset win over No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday, had 14 points, while Joe Munden Jr. had 13 on 5-of-11 from the field.
The Knights were trying to become the first team to make it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 16 seed. Though they fell short, they made history as the second team ever to beat a No. 1 seed to advance in the tournament. It was also the Northeast Conference’s first win in the tournament out of any team.
Alijah Martin #15 of the Florida Atlantic Owls celebrates a basket against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights during the second half in the second round game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 19, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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In the end, though, FAU, a team that is 32-3 on the year and having quite the run, will get ready to face No. 4 Tennessee as they hope to keep their Cinderella dreams alive on Thursday.
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