COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nicholas Boyd drove to the basket through traffic and converted a floater with 2.5 seconds left to make history for Florida Atlantic.
The sophomore guard’s play off an inbounds pass from Johnell Davis will go down in Florida Atlantic history as it clinched the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, 66-65 over Memphis in a tough, back-and-forth game.
It was just the second trip to the tournament — and the first since 2002 — for the ninth-seeded Owls, who advanced to face a surprise opponent, No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, in the second round of the East Region. The Knights knocked off top seed Purdue in one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history.
Coach Penny Hardaway’s eighth-seeded Tigers (26-9) had the ball and a one-point lead with 19 seconds left, but a Brandon Weatherspoon steal and subsequent jump ball — Hardaway claimed his team had called a timeout before the drive — gave the Owls (32-3) a chance.
Boyd said he pleaded with coach Dusty May to let him take the go-ahead.
“In the timeout, I said, ‘Coach, I got it,'” Boyd said. “I don’t know why I felt that way, but I just said, ‘Coach, let me get the ball.’ I caught it in the corner. I was going to shoot 3. He jumped for the shot fake. And Vlad (Goldin) had a great seal, allowed me to get to the rim. I was just thinking about finishing anyway.”
The fifth-year coach was good at that.
“We also felt that Memphis was really going to hit on Davis and (Alijah) Martin, our two leading scorers, our two first-team leaders. So we thought we could use them as a lure,” May said. “And Nick is a very talented scorer. He got a place in the corner, had a lot of space to work.”
Hardaway threw a water bottle in frustration after Memphis let the game get away.
“Wild fight from start to finish,” he said. “It hurts more to give up a setup for the win. You work all year talking about defense, and hang your hat on defense, we needed one stop. Couldn’t stop it.”
Giancarlo Rosado scored 15 points to lead FAU, and Davis had 12.
“It’s good — but we’re not done yet,” Rosado said. “We didn’t come here to win a game. We didn’t come here to win two games. We came to win because that’s what we do. We have proven that we are a Top 25 program. For half of the season we were in the Top 25. We have proven that we should be here. We don’t do anything we’re not supposed to do.”
Kendric Davis scored 16 points despite being hampered by an injury in the second half for Memphis. Davis also got into a shouting match with teammate Malcolm Dandridge, who shoved Davis during a second-half timeout.
DeAndre Williams added 13 points while playing most of the second half with four fouls for the Tigers, including a tip-in that put his team ahead 65-64 with 34 seconds left.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls from Boca Raton won the Conference USA title to make the tournament for the second time, 21 years after their first appearance. The school will move to the American Athletic Conference next season, where Memphis will be an annual foe.
Memphis: The Tigers led for most of the second half, but couldn’t pull away.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” Kendric Davis said. “We worked hard all year to put ourselves in this position. And we just didn’t. Starting with me. I had a big turnover. You think about what you could have done. We didn’t get it done.”
SHOTS WILL NOT FALL
No player on either team made more than two 3-pointers. Not that they didn’t try, especially in the first half. Florida Atlantic was 8 for 28 and Memphis was 6 for 22 from beyond the arc. The teams combined for five 3-point attempts in the second half as the game remained close.
Florida Atlantic edges Memphis 66-65, first March Madness win originally appeared on NBCSports.com