Florida Atlantic had to withstand two second-half surges from Western Kentucky before escaping with a 65-62 victory over the Hilltoppers in Sun Belt Conference basketball Saturday night.
The visiting Owls (9-9, 4-3) nearly blew a 13-point lead over the final four minutes but avoided overtime when the Hilltoppers' T.J. Price missed a long 3-point jumper in the closing seconds and FAU's Greg Gantt secured the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
Earlier, FAU boosted a 10-point halftime lead up to 15 less than five minutes into the second half when Gantt's jumper made it 44-29.
But the Hilltoppers (10-8, 4-3) took advantage of FAU turnovers to outscore the Owls 13-4 over the next five minutes, making it 46-42 midway through the period.
The Owls then rebuilt their cushion to 59-47 on Pablo Bertone's jumper with 4:08 left before suffering a near total collapse.
The Hilltoppers, who forced the Owls into 23 turnovers, had their deficit down to one point when Price canned a 3-pointer to make it 63-62, but Bertone went to the foul line and made both chances to get it back to a three-point difference.
The Owls got 22 points from Gantt -- his ninth consecutive game over the 20 mark -- and 15 each from Stefan Moody and Bertone. Their 49 percent shooting and 40-27 dominance on the boards helped make up for their ball-handling woes.
Price led the Hilltoppers with 20 points and George Fant added 19.