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Johnell Davis scores 30 points, No. 24 Florida Atlantic holds off UAB 86-73

Vladislav Goldin, Division I leader in field-goal percentage at 72%, adds 18
Florida Atlantic Owls guard Johnell Davis drives to basket as UAB Blazers forward Yaxel Lendeborg defends during first half, Jan. 14, 2024
Posted at 3:44 PM, Jan 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-14 21:46:51-05

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Johnell Davis is a morning person. He didn't mind getting up early for a noon game on Sunday.

And it showed.

Davis scored Florida Atlantic's first 10 points on his way to finishing with 30, Vladislav Goldin added 18 points and the 24th-ranked Owls used a big first half to fuel an 86-73 win over UAB.

Jalen Gaffney added 10 for the Owls (13-4, 3-1 American). It was the third 30-point effort of Davis' career, and two of those have come against UAB. He had a career-best 36 when the Birmingham, Ala., school visited FAU last season.

"Johnell Davis has had our number," UAB coach Andy Kennedy said. "His ability to get where he wants with the ball, versus anybody ... is one of the best in college basketball."

Eric Gaines and Efrem Johnson each scored 13 for UAB (10-6, 2-1), which saw its six-game winning streak snapped. The Blazers trailed by 22 with 17:47 left and got within eight on a layup by Alejandro Vasquez with 4:44 remaining.

But the Owls scored the game's next 10 points to put the win away. Davis left with 1:20 remaining after appearing to turn his left ankle, but he said afterward that he was fine.

"My first shot went in and my teammates kept finding me open," Davis said. “And I took good shots."

Goldin came into the day as the Division I leader in field goal percentage and improved his numbers. He made eight of 10 shots and is now 97 for 135 this season – 72%.

Florida Atlantic Owls center Vladislav Goldin blocks shot by UAB Blazers guard Daniel Ortiz during second half, Jan. 14, 2024
Florida Atlantic center Vladislav Goldin blocks a shot by UAB guard Daniel Ortiz during the second half Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Boca Raton, Fla.

UAB started the game shooting 5 for 12 over the game's first 7 minutes, which wasn't great. The Blazers then went 5 for 22 over the next 16 minutes, which was considerably worse.

Aided by that cold spell, FAU used a 15-2 run late in the half to build a 37-18 lead. It was 43-24 at halftime, a rare intermission where the Owls had some breathing room. FAU hadn’t led by so much at the break since holding a 23-point edge over FIU on Dec. 13, and the Owls had been outscored by 29 in their most recent six first halves entering Sunday.

"We gave up 24 points in the first half and six of those 24 were off our turnovers and bad decisions on offense," FAU coach Dusty May said. "For the first time all year, we were happy with our defensive energy, effort and intangibles for 20 minutes. And in the second half, we got a little bit loose and content."

The Blazers have lost consecutive games to FAU for the first time in series history. UAB won 13 of the first 18 meetings but went 1-2 vs. the Owls last season — including a 78-56 loss in the Conference USA championship game, their most recent meeting before Sunday.