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No. 24 Florida Atlantic, Tulane to meet coming off losses

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After a shocking road debut in the American Athletic Conference, No. 24 Florida Atlantic has a chance at quick redemption in conference play.

Coach Dusty May and his Owls (11-4, 1-1) will travel to New Orleans for Thursday night’s matchup with the Tulane Green Wave (10-4, 1-1) in each team’s third AAC contest.

Following a hard-fought 79-64 home win over East Carolina on Tuesday in its conference debut, Florida Atlantic was upset 70-68 in Charlotte by the 49ers on Saturday afternoon.

The matchup was messy for May from the opening tip.

Also in its first season competing in the American, Charlotte scored the match’s first nine points and never let up on the Owls — last year’s NCAA Tournament Cinderella story.

The 49ers raised the advantage to 17 early in the second half, but Florida Atlantic rallied to tie the game at 53-all on Nick Boyd’s three-point play with 6:29 remaining.

However, the Owls, who led with 3:53 left, could not make the defensive stops they needed and lost when Boyd’s corner 3-pointer at the buzzer was off target.

May has noticed two trends with his squad — starting poorly and regrouping.

“It’s becoming a theme, where we’re just not on our toes or are the aggressor early in the game, and then we have to fight back,” said the sixth-year coach. “Credit to our guys. They got back and fought, scrapped, clawed (and) got us into position to win the game.”

The sluggish starts have been confounding and forced the staff to investigate every angle.

“I’m not sure what’s caused it,” May said. “We’re looking at everything. Our pregame preparation, our day-of preparation, our day-before preparation. We look inward to see what we can do differently or better.

“We may tinker with the lineup and see if we can get some better combinations on the floor.”

FAU is ranked 26th in the latest NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool), which is used by the selection committee to help set the March Madness field — holding a 5-2 record in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games combined.

Similarly, Tulane is coming off a road loss and looking to get back on track after Saturday’s 70-56 decision against North Texas in Denton, Texas.

The Green Wave got 17 points from Collin Holloway, plus 10 and nine from Sion James and Kevin Cross, respectively, but those three combined could not match the output of North Texas’ Jason Edwards.

The sophomore guard from Atlanta netted a career-high 37 points on 10-for-15 shooting, and he made all but 2 of 10 attempts from long range.

According to James, Edwards’ standout performance is not what Tulane coach Ron Hunter expects on the defensive end.

“Coach Hunter talks about the way we win games is on defense,” said James, who averages 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. “We have as much talent as anyone in the country on offense, but defense is what’s going to take us over the next step.”

Tulane has leaned on Cross, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior from Little Rock, Ark.

The forward leads the squad with 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

–Field Level Media

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