LAS VEGAS — With Florida Atlantic and Arizona going back and forth Saturday, forcing one overtime and then a second, it didn't feel like an early-season tournament game.
These teams could wind up facing each other again in March with much more on the line than the Desert Classic.
If so, they will have a difficult time topping the No. 14 Owls' 96-95 victory over No. 4 Arizona for FAU's first win over a top-10 team. Johnell Davis scored 35 points, just one short of his career high, and had nine rebounds.
"It felt like a high-level basketball game," FAU coach Dusty May said. "This felt like a February game with the conference championship on the line."
May should know, having last season taken the Owls on a stunning run to the Final Four. Only eight other teams seeded ninth or lower have ever made it that far.
They are showing that was no fluke, having beaten their second-ranked team this season to improve to 10-2. FAU defeated then-No. 12 Texas A&M 96-89 on Nov. 24.
Just 7 1/2 minutes into the game, FAU trailed by 14 points, 17-13. But the Owls brought it to a 37-31 deficit at halftime. And 16-4 start in the second half gave the Owls their first lead.
With just under a minute left in the the second overtime, Giancarlo Rosado made the back end of two free throws for what turned out to be the winning point against Arizona (9-2).
Caleb Love, who led the Wildcats with 26 points, missed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer. He was one of five Wildcats to score in double figures. Pelle Larsson was Arizona's next-highest scorer with 15 points, and Oumar Ballo had 13 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.
This was the first loss in Las Vegas for Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd, who was 9-0 including back-to-back Pac-12 Conference tourney championships.
"We told our guys these are the type of teams you're going to play once you make a deep tournament run," Lloyd said. “They're an incredible team, incredibly well-coached. That No. 1 kid (Davis) was nails and they're veterans.”
Davis nearly reached his all-time best of 36 points, which he scored against Alabama-Birmingham on Jan. 5.
"I just try to go out there and play each game the same," Davis said. "When we get in between the lines, just compete."
In addition to Davis, Jalen Gaffney scored 20 points for FAU and Alijah Martin had 13.
Vladislav Goldin, who entered the game leading FAU in scoring (15.1 points per game) and rebounds (7.0) and the nation in shooting at 75.9%, was in foul trouble most of the game and picked up his fifth early in the first overtime. He finished with seven points and three rebounds.
Love put Arizona in front 73-71 with a 3-pointer with 1:09 left in regulation. FAU tied the game with 7.2 seconds remaining when Gaffney rebounded Davis' missed 3-point attempt and found Goldin alone under the basket for the dunk.
Davis' 3-footer with 10.2 seconds left put the Owls ahead 84-82 in the first overtime, and Love's two free throws with 5.9 seconds remaining sent the game to another extra session.
The Owls were 1-19 against ranked teams before 2023, but have since gone 5-2 in such games, including Saturday's. May downplayed what beating Arizona might do to get his team ready for the postseason, but at the very least beating two ranked teams this season should help the Owls receive better than a nine-seed barring they don't stumble in American Athletic Conference play.
FAU next plays at Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 30 before entering AAC play.