NEW YORK CITY — For nine minutes and 52 seconds, Madison Square Garden was filled with one chant:
Senior guard Michael Forrest hit two consecutive three pointers to give the Owls their first lead since 3-2 in the first half, and from that point on, something clicked.
The energy shifted in Madison Square Garden, the section of FAU fans started to sound less like a quiet band, and more like an avalanche, rolling thunderous chants of “FAU”.
Michael Forrest hit a layup to extend the lead.
The crowd got louder.
Alijah Martin hit a three pointer off a fastbreak.
The crowd got even louder.
By the time junior wing Brandon Weatherspoon made a layup to give the Owls a double digit lead, the crowd fully flipped to being on the Owls side, and they felt it, riding that high to a 62-55 victory to advance one step closer to a Final Four berth.
“It[the crowd] energizes them, especially on the defensive end,” head coach Dusty May said after the game. “It probably helped us get the basketballs a little quicker, the loose balls, the 50/50 balls. Because I thought in the second half we were a little bit quicker to the ball during that spurt.”
Offensively, the Owls went into halftime with only 22 points, and needing a spark offensively. FAU had shot poorly in the first half, including a 3-14 performance from deep. Who would step up for the Owls when they needed the spark the most.
In came Michael Forrest, the only senior in the rotation. The elder statesman of the Owls provided a spark off the bench, going on a 8-0 run by himself, as a part of the 18-2 run that gave the Owls the lead as the second half dwindled. It truly can be anyone’s night for the Owls, and tonight it was Forrest who stepped up. “We’ve got a group of guys that no matter what night it is, somebody is going to step up and make a big play,” Forrest said postgame. “Everybody stays together through the ups and downs, so that’s really what separates us.”
Up next for the Owls is Kansas State, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The Owls have now been crowned as Cinderella, but if you ask sophomore wing Alijah Martin and guard Nick Boyd, they never were. “We feel like we’re supposed to be here, doing exactly what we’re supposed to do,” Martin said.
“I don’t feel like we’re a Cinderella, we proved that tonight,” Boyd said. “We just played good basketball.”