BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Nicholas Boyd had 16 points, Alijah Martin added 15 off the bench and No. 24 Florida Atlantic used a second-half surge to run past Western Kentucky 76-62 on Monday night for its 16th consecutive victory.
Hours after becoming ranked for the first time in school history, the Owls (17-1, 7-0 Conference USA) led by 34-33 at halftime before shooting 54% to break open a close game. Martin’s layup with 7:58 remaining sparked a 7-0 spurt for a 69-55 lead as FAU outscored W. Kentucky (11-7, 3-4) 18-12 over the final 10 minutes. The Hilltoppers never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
“We just present a number of challenges to teams that also play bigger lineups than ours, just to cover a small lineup like ours,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “We try to use that to our advantage. It’s how we’re built.”
Dayvion McKnight had 15 points and Jordan Rawls 13 for W. Kentucky, which had its three-game conference winning streak stopped.
Nick Boyd made 6 of 10 from the field including 3 of 6 from long range. Johnell Davis also came off the bench to add 14 points for the Owls.
FAU made 19 of 26 free throws and finished with a 43-25 rebounding advantage.
“We have to be physical with our block outs, and more importantly we need five guys really attacking the ball, using our speed and therefore we’re able to get out in transition,” May said. “We’re year-in, year-out one of the better rebounding teams in the league.”
W. Kentucky played again without head coach Rick Stansbury, who has been out because an undisclosed health matter since the Dec. 22 game at South Carolina. Associate head coach Phil Cunningham has led the team in Stansbury’s absence.
The win helped Florida Atlantic keep the nation’s second-longest current win streak intact and helped the Owls take command in the C-USA standings at 7-0.
Western Kentucky lost a chance at sustaining momentum after winning three straight. The Hilltoppers last beat a ranked team in 2018 when they downed No. 15 Wisconsin 83-75 on Dec. 29, 2018, in Bowling Green.
“They came into a hostile environment and played really well,” Cunningham said. “They’re an experienced team, tough and physical and they made shots they needed to make them So all the credit goes to them.”
W. Kentucky’s 7-foot-5 center Jamarion Sharp, the nation’s leading shot blocker, finished with four blocks against FAU and became the school’s all-time leader with 225 blocks in just two seasons at the school.
Florida Atlantic visits UTSA on Thursday night.
Western Kentucky visits Louisiana Tech on Thursday night.
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