CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This was the type of situation Lu'Cye Patterson has dreamed about: Game on the line. Against a ranked opponent. Ball in his hands.
Patterson drew a foul on a jumper with 1.7 seconds left and made both free throws as Charlotte defeated No. 17 Florida Atlantic 70-68 on Saturday for its first home win against an AP Top 25 opponent in 14 years.
"He gets that fire in his eyes, that real competitive look like, 'I ain’t losing this ... thing," said Charlotte coach Aaron Fearne. "Not everyone is built like that, and that's ok. Some guys want the ball and some guys don't. Lu'Cye definitely wants it in his hands."
Patterson said he learned that playing for his father and being put in that type of situation time and time again growing up as a point guard.
"You have to have some ball in you and I feel like I do,"Patterson said.
Patterson scored 16 points and Igor Milicic Jr. added 13 points — including a towering one-handed dunk in the final two minutes — for the 49ers, who squandered a 17-point second-half lead before surging ahead late.
After Patterson's free throws, Florida Atlantic nearly pulled off a miracle as a full-court pass ended up in Nick Boyd's hands, but his 3-point attempt from the corner barely rimmed out as time expired.
"Last year we were able to win all of the one-possession games," said FAU coach Dusty May. "The numbers say you are probably going to win half of them, so if we are going to be in one-possession games it is probably going to go back and forth."
Johnell Davis had 20 points and Boyd had 19 for Florida Atlantic (11-4, 1-1 American Athletic Conference), which has lost two of its last three.
Charlotte (7-7, 1-1) bolted to a 9-0 start and led by 15 at halftime.
FAU missed its first eight shots from the field and didn't score until nearly six minutes into the game. Charlotte built on the momentum and extended its lead to 41-26 at the break after shooting 55% from the field and outrebounding the Owls 18-12 in the first half.
"It's becoming a theme where we are just not on our toes, we aren't the aggressor early in the game and then we have to fight back," May said.
The momentum of the game changed with 10:20 left when Patterson rolled his ankle and had to briefly leave the game with the 49ers leading by eight.
Boyd followed with a 3, getting the ball to bounce over the front of the rim and in to trim the lead to five. A limping Patterson would return, but the Owls kept attacking and Boyd tied the game with 6:28 left with a driving left-handed, drawing a foul and converting the 3-point play.
Alijah Martin would give the Owls their first lead of the game with four minutes to go on a tip-in.
But it didn't last.
Charlotte battled back to take the lead with 1:18 left when Patterson coolly buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 3-point lead. Davis answered with his clutch 3 with 14.3 left, setting up Patterson's winning free throws.
This is the type of loss that could knock the Owls out of the top 25. Another slow start did them in. May said he and his staff are evaluating potential changes in everything from pre-game routines to the starting lineup.
"We have to get our edge back," May said.
FAU plays at Tulane on Thursday night.