No. 21 Florida Atlantic stands one victory away from matching its highest win total for a single season in program history.
The Owls will try to reach that plateau on Saturday afternoon when they host Western Kentucky in Conference USA action in Boca Raton, Fla.
Florida Atlantic (20-1, 10-0) has its second-ever 20-win season and first since 2010-11. The Owls enter Saturday's game with the nation's second-longest active winning streak, having won a school-record 19 in a row.
It's been a remarkable breakthrough for FAU in coach Dusty May's fifth season. What May finds compelling is the way his team has remained consistent even after reaching such lofty heights for the program.
"These guys have learned how to win," May said after the team's 85-67 defeat of Middle Tennessee on Thursday.
The Owls played before a record crowd of 3,082 at their home arena in what was their first home game ever as a ranked team.
And despite getting off to a terrible shooting start -- missing their first eight shots -- FAU bounced back behind Johnell Davis' 19 first-half points and took control of the game quickly with its defense.
The Owls recorded 12 steals as a team and built a 38-30 halftime lead. Florida Atlantic pulled away after the Blue Raiders cut the deficit to 53-49 with 11:21 left.
Davis continues to pace FAU as its leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game.
"The way I was warming up, I was giving it my all so I would be ready to give it my all off the bench," Davis said after the game.
FAU will face the struggling Hilltoppers for the second time in 11 days after winning the first matchup 76-62 at Bowling Green, Ky., on Jan. 16.
That loss started a four-game losing streak for Western Kentucky (11-10, 3-7), which is coming off a 78-69 loss at Florida International on Thursday night.
In a bit of good news, the Hilltoppers did get coach Rick Stansbury back on the sideline. Stansbury missed the previous nine games with an undisclosed health issue.
Western Kentucky went 3-6 under associate head coach Phil Cunningham.
"Thank you everyone for their thoughts and prayers," Stansbury said in a recorded message before Thursday night's game.
Dayvion McKnight continued to pace the Hilltoppers with 23 points, and they did a solid job holding Denver Jones, the Panthers' leading scorer, to 17 points.
The Hilltoppers led by 10 in the first half before the Panthers took advantage of a scoring drought to erase that deficit over the next couple of minutes. Western Kentucky went into another scoring drought in the second half that allowed the Panterhs to go on a 22-4 run and pull away.
Western Kentucky turned the ball over 17 times, which led to 27 points for the Panthers.
McKnight was held to 15 points the last time the Hilltoppers faced Florida Atlantic.
"They came into a hostile environment and played really well," Cunningham said after that loss. "They're an experienced team, tough and physical and they made shots they needed to make. So all the credit goes to them."
--Field Level Media