BOCA RATON, Fla. — Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler walked into Florida Atlantic's arena a bit late, arriving around the midpoint of the first half. Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov was at a college basketball game for the first time.
The Owls made sure to give their courtside guests a good show — especially in the second half.
Alijah Martin scored 22 points, Johnell Davis added 19 and No. 23 FAU rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second half to beat Wichita State 86-77 on Thursday night. Martin and Davis combined for 30 of FAU's 55 second-half points, and yes, they noticed that the stars were watching.
"They're not here to see myself and the staff," FAU coach Dusty May said. "They're here to see these guys."
Vladislav Goldin scored 17 and Tre Carroll added 10 off the bench for Florida Atlantic (14-4, 4-1 American), which won its third straight.
Quincy Ballard scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting for Wichita State (8-9, 0-4), which dropped its sixth straight. Colby Rogers also had 18 for the Shockers, who haven’t had a losing streak this long since 2008-09.
"I'm not sure if you're aware of our schedule, but in the last six games we played four Quad 1 games and one of them is a Quad 2," Wichita State coach Paul Mills said. "I don’t get caught up in all that. I don’t make the schedule. You just play whoever's in front of you."
Ballard might have had the play of the night — blocking a dunk try by the 7-foot-1 Goldin, the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage, with 2:28 left. But it wasn’t enough for the Shockers, who managed only five field goals in the final 10 minutes.
Wichita State's lead was 11 early in the second half, and the chip-chip-chipping away by FAU started.
Every time the Owls made a little dent, the Shockers had a little answer. Jalen Gaffney scored to get FAU within 48-43 with 15:35 left; Isaac Abidde rebutted with a dunk. Martin had a pair of baskets to get FAU within four; Rogers and Kenny Pohto had the responses after those.
"Felt good to help the team dig it out," Martin said.
Then, finally, the breakthrough — FAU got back-to-back 3-pointers to fall for only the second time all night, Nick Boyd and Martin hitting them, and reclaimed the lead at 66-64 with 6:48 left.
The Owls wouldn’t trail again. Davis got a three-point play with 3:10 remaining to push the lead to seven; the lead didn't fall below four the rest of the way.