Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Florida International Golden Panthers Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 13th 2023

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Florida Atlantic returns home with perhaps a lesson learned from its opening-round defeat at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

At least coach Dusty May hopes so.

The No. 15 Owls (7-2) get back to action Wednesday night when they host Florida International University in Boca Raton, Fla.

FAU went to the legendary New York venue and dropped a 98-89 decision to then-No. 20 Illinois on Dec. 5.

The biggest problem for the Owls against the Big Ten school was slowing down its two top scorers — Marcus Domask and Terrence Shannon Jr.

The two players recorded career-high 33-point performances and combined to go 25-for-35 from the field as the Fighting Illini’s offense proved too much to handle.

From the floor, Illinois shot 63.2 percent (36 of 57), while FAU made 48.4 percent (31 of 64).

May challenged his team not to panic over the early-season loss.

“Since Illinois’ only loss to a (then) top-3 Marquette, they’ve responded with aggression and with a level of toughness not many have been able to match,” May said. “I think just like us when we lost to Bryant, they lost to Marquette, you learn a lot about yourselves.

“Even though maybe your fanbases might panic or there may be others around programs that might panic, we’ve been able to do this year-in and year-out knowing that’s par for the course.”

After hosting FIU and facing St. Bonaventure on Saturday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic, the Owls will battle No. 1 Arizona in Las Vegas’ Desert Classic two days before Christmas.

“As long as you learn from it and grow from it and figure some things out, it’s actually good in the long run,” May said of the Illinois setback.

Down south in Miami, FIU got off to a woeful start, opening the campaign with six defeats in its first seven contests.

However, the Panthers (3-7) were victorious in their last outing and have won two of their past three games overall.

Sophomore guard Arturo Dean notched a career-high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 74-59 win over Long Island University on Dec 2.

In consecutive games, Dean recorded 10 steals against Florida Gulf Coast University plus the career-high night against Long Island to earn him his first CUSA Player of the Week honor.

Individually, Dean leads the nation in steals per game (4.5), while he and his teammates are creating the second-most turnovers per game (19.9) and steals (13.2).

In the win, Jeremy Ballard set a school record with his 80th Division I win at FIU, the most ever by a coach.

“We’re trying to work on building the culture, everyone understanding what goes into winning,” Ballard said. “I know from the outside people can look at the record. The record is what it is, OK.

“No one’s cutting nets down right now, no one’s handing out trophies right now and no one’s accepting invitations to the NCAA Tournament right now.”

In total, the Panthers will have an 11-day break before meeting the Owls.

–Field Level Media

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