NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (FAU/Florida Sports Wire)– Final. Four. Bound.
The unbelievable ride that is the 2022-23 season for Florida Atlantic University men’s basketball will go all the way to Houston.
On Saturday night, the Owls accomplished what was previously thought to be unthinkable in their 35 years of existence. The net was cut at Madison Square Garden and the Owls stood on the East Regional Championship podium. Like the Round of 64, 32, and Sweet Sixteen, the No. 9 seed FAU survived and advanced in the Elite Eight, taking down the No. 3 seed Kansas State Wildcats in an instant classic, 79-76. Now, they move to the Final Four for a chance to play for the 2023 National Championship Game.
The tone was set just eight seconds into the night, when junior guard Bryan Greenlee knocked down a three-pointer to take a 3-0 lead. A timely triple by Greenlee would become a theme of the night. When the Owls needed to re-take a lead later on in the first half, Greenlee came through once again, knocking down the triple to go ahead by a score of 34-32.
Unlike previous NCAA tournament games, Florida Atlantic was able to find their offensive rhythm in the first half. FAU shot 54% in the opening 20 minutes, while also taking on a massive 22-9 rebound advantage. The Owls were able to go into the locker room at halftime with a 42-38 lead.
Kansas State quickly found rhythm of their own quickly to start the second period, requiring Florida Atlantic to play from behind yet again, trailing by as much as seven, but the Owls continued to play fast and aggressive.
With under 10 minutes to go, the comeback was on. Yet another timely triple by Greenlee and one by Brandon Weatherspoon followed by a 7-0 run put the Owls in position, culminating in a ferocious dunk by Sophomore center Vladislav Goldin to give Florida Atlantic a 64-63 lead with six minutes to go.
A three-point shot by Alijah Martin followed by two free throws put the Owls ahead 72-64 at the 2:44 mark, their largest lead of the game.
Action went back-and-forth for the final two minutes as Kansas State wasn’t quite ready to let go. With six seconds left and Florida Atlantic leading 77-76 with possession, the Wildcats were forced to foul Mr. FAU, Michael Forrest, who swished both free throw attempts to forever cement Florida Atlantic in the history books as one of the greatest stories in college basketball history.
Florida Atlantic University: 35 wins, undefeated home record, 100 wins for head coach Dusty May, first ever AP national ranking, first ever Conference USA title, second ever March Madness bid, first since 2002, first, second, third, and fourth tournament victory, first ever Final Four bid, and just two wins away from being national champions.
Yet for Head Coach Dusty May and the Owls’ squad, there is still work to be done in Houston, Texas.