The Aggies (5-0) defeated Penn State 89-77 on Thursday, while the Owls (3-1) held off Butler 91-86 later in the afternoon.
The one-two punch of Henry Coleman III and Wade Taylor IV led the way for Texas A&M against the Nittany Lions, scoring 24 and 23 points, respectively, as the Aggies avenged last season's first-round loss to Penn State in the NCAA Tournament.
Taylor and Coleman have been the driving forces behind the Aggies' hot start, as Taylor is logging a team-high 18.2 points per game, while Coleman averages 15.4. Tyrece Radford has also been a main contributor (15.2 points per game).
Texas A&M is 5-0 for the first time since the 2017-18 season. In a radio interview following Thursday's victory, coach Buzz Williams talked about how thrilled he was with the way his team has handled the early part of the season.
"I admire our guys so much because they haven't taken a step back from difficulty," Williams said. "The difficulty to prepare, the difficulty to show up and be their best every day, the difficulty to absorb a very unique scouting report. The difficulty of playing on the road for the third time in five games.
"I'm not saying the results are always going to be good, but I want to give credit where credit is due and to realize what a blessing it is to not just have really good players but to have really good people raised by incredible families, so that the character of the talent is never in play."
FAU's win over Butler helped to erase the sour taste left from the Owls' 61-52 upset loss at home to Bryant last Saturday.
In Thursday's victory, Vladislav Goldin had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Johnell Davis finished with 15 points to help pace a balanced attack in which six players scored in double figures.
The Owls, a deep and experienced team that went to the Final Four last season, were tested throughout against Butler but used their depth to their advantage in the end.
"We had a lot of guys step up and make plays and we're still learning how to win with this group," Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May said in a postgame interview. "Last year our team was confident we could find a number of ways to win. This team is still trying to figure itself out."
Goldin leads the Owls with 16.0 points per game, while Davis averages 11.3. Both players are hauling in 7.5 rebounds per contest.
Friday marks the first all-time meeting between FAU and Texas A&M.
The winner will head to Sunday's championship game, where it will play Iowa State or Virginia Tech. Losers from both semifinals will square off in the third-place game, which is also set for Sunday.
Neither team has ever won the ESPN Events Invitational. The Aggies finished fifth in the tournament in 2010.
--Field Level Media
Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.