The men’s basketball team’s hopes of a championship ended Thursday, March 2, with a 74-62 loss to Florida Gulf Coast University in the ASUN Conference Semifinals.
The Owls were one win away from the championship finals and a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. KSU fans must come to terms with the fact that there won’t be any more games until November, but the program is moving in the right direction. The team finished the season 7-7 in conference play and 14-18 overall.
Thursday’s game began with an early FGCU run stalled by efforts from KSU redshirt senior guard Kendrick Ray and junior guard Nick Masterson. The fifth seed Owls managed to keep it close against the No. 1 seeded Eagles in the first half.
The ASUN First Team All-Conference selection, Ray, finished the half with 12 points. This was Ray’s last game as an Owl, and he definitely played like it, leaving everything on the court.
FGCU started the second half with a 6-0 run to go up nine and eventually stretched that lead to double digits. Carried by the momentum of the crowd, FGCU continued to pull away from KSU, going up by 18 points.
As for Ray, he finishes his decorated collegiate career with a university-high 27 points against FGCU and 656 total points this season. Ray is tied for 18th-most points in the ASUN’s single-season history. Masterson was the only other Owl in the double digits with 16 points, shooting 6-of-7 field goals and going 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
KSU’s inside game has been its weak point all season. FGCU outscored KSU in the paint 54-26, so the Owls will more than likely look to 6-foot-10-inch freshman forward Johannes Nielsen to step up next year and fill that void.
“The next step is to be in the top half of this league,” said head coach Al Skinner. “After that, we want to be where FGCU is and playing in the ASUN Championship game. That’s our goal and what we’re working toward.”