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UNF men’s basketball drops two close games on Homecoming week

The University of North Florida men’s basketball team dropped two heartbreaking home games over Homecoming week, losing 74-79 against the North Alabama Lions and 77-79 to the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears.

The first matchup against North Alabama on Thursday saw the Ospreys struggling initially, allowing the Lions to lead 11-4 right after the first media timeout. 

North Florida attempted to climb back, as a couple of threes by Chaz Lanier cut the Lions lead to 18-14. However, North Alabama forward Damian Forrest didn’t let the Ospreys reduce the lead much more. 

Forrest scored three of the Lions’ next four shots, and the scoring didn’t stop there, as a few North Alabama jumpers helped extend the Lions’ lead to 16, 37-21. 

After North Alabama’s 19-7 run, the Ospreys trailed 39-26 at halftime, getting outscored 26-8 in shots scored near the basket. 

“[North Alabama] was getting open buckets at the rim, and we missed,” head coach Matthew Driscoll said. 

Both teams started the second half struggling to score. After several layups by Chaz Lanier and Nate Lliteras, which reduced North Alabama’s lead to 10, the Ospreys went scoreless for over four minutes. 

A three-pointer by Jasai Miles broke the drought with 13:02 remaining, the Ospreys still trailing 50-38. 

North Florida didn’t start a run until only 10 minutes were left on the clock. Lanier scored eight straight points, lowering North Alabama’s lead to just 56-53 with around eight minutes left in the game. 

Lanier scored 23 of his 35 points in the final 11 minutes of the game. This led to a 77-74 North Alabama lead with just under a minute left, but unfortunately, the Ospreys weren’t able to make a game-tying shot, and UNF lost their first ASUN home game of the season, 79-74. 

In their second game of the week against Central Arkansas on Saturday, the Ospreys started off doing better, trading baskets with the Sugar Bears in the first half. 

After Lanier opened the game with a dunk, Lliteras scored eight of the next ten points for the Ospreys, keeping up with Central Arkansas’ balanced offensive attack. 

Throughout the first half, both teams were trading scores, ending in an Osprey halftime lead of 45-41, courtesy of Lliteras scoring 16 first-half points and the Ospreys making eight three-pointers. UNF also shot 11 free throws, compared to zero from the Sugar Bears. 

The second half began with an 8-0 run from Central Arkansas, giving the Sugar Bears the 50-45 lead, prompting a UNF timeout with 17 minutes left. 

The Ospreys struggled defensively at the start of the second half, giving up an 8-0 run in the first three minutes. (Rachel Bacchus)

A couple of three-pointers by Oscar Berry and Jake van der Heijden gave the Ospreys the 65-62 lead with nine minutes remaining, but North Florida followed by going scoreless for the next seven minutes of the game, ultimately allowing Central Arkansas to take the 71-65 lead with only two minutes left.

“The Four straight turnovers were the hardest part of it,” Driscoll said. “That really allowed [Central Arkansas] to get going.”

The Ospreys were struggling to score, facing a deficit with little time remaining, and Lanier took matters into his own hands. 

The junior guard scored the final 12 points for the Ospreys, carrying the team in crunch time once again. Lanier had a chance to tie the game, with UNF down by two points and 12 seconds remaining, but the Nashville native’s jump shot was no good. 

The Ospreys once again came up short on their home court, losing 79-77 to a struggling Central Arkansas team that entered Saturday’s game on a three-game losing streak. UNF is now tied for fourth place in the ASUN, dropping two spots after losing three straight games.  

“If you don’t protect your home court in this league, then you’re really going to slide quickly,” said Driscoll. 

North Florida fell to 13-13 overall and 6-5 in ASUN play. The Ospreys’ next chance against a conference opponent is on Feb. 14 against Queens at 7 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

___

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About the Contributors
Ethan Howick, Sports Reporter
Ethan Howick is a first-year communications major at the University of North Florida. Ethan has a passion for sports journalism with hopes of becoming a journalist and/or broadcaster for a sports media company someday. During his free time, Ethan enjoys spending time with his family and attending many sporting events with friends.
Rachel Bacchus, General Assignment Reporter
Rachel Bacchus is the current General Assignment Reporter at Spinnaker but also volunteers as a photographer. Rachel is a young photographer and writer working towards her Degree in Multimedia Journalism. She is primarily interested in sports photography and political journalism.

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