By: Josh Brannock, Sports Editor
Defense was on the back burner and offense was on the front stage Feb. 4 when the UNF Ospreys hosted the Stetson Hatters.
The Ospreys (12-13, 6-6) scored the most points in their Division I history as they beat the Hatters (8-15, 5-7) 99-96 in front of 1324 fans.
The night started fast for both teams. UNF’s Parker Smith made his first three shots from beyond-the-arc. The score at the second media timeout of the first half (11:02) was 26-20, with Stetson having a slight advantage. For the rest of the first, the Hatters controlled the tempo of the game and were consistently drawing fouls, earning the double bonus with 6:32 left in the first.
At the end of the half Stetson had a healthy 54-47 lead over UNF despite the Ospreys out rebounding Stetson, having a higher shooting percentage, 58.1 percent to 55.9 percent, and having made twice as many three pointers, 6-3. Stetson did however make 13 of its 14 free throws in the first.
The 54 from Stetson was the most points UNF had given up in a half this season, the prior high for a half was the 52 that the University of Florida scored Nov. 7.
The second half was a different story for the Ospreys. Both teams started the half in a back-and-forth battle with UNF having a slight 9-6 advantage in second half points with 15:55 remaining in the game. The Ospreys made the game close several times, but whenever UNF would get close the Hatters would gain momentum.
With 11:14 remaining in the game UNF had closed the gap to 4, 74-70, and was poised to gain control of the game from there. UNF’s Matt Sauey drew the first charge of the night with 9:47 left in the game to give UNF a chance to tie the score at 76. However UNF would need to wait two more minutes to tie Stetson for the first time since the first half.
With 7:34 left to play, Smith hit a three pointer to tie the game at three. Just one minute later with 6:40 left in the game, Smith hit another three pointer from roughly 28 feet out to give UNF its first lead of the half, 83-80. Prior to the two three’s Smith had gone cold. After making his first three shots from outside he had missed seven straight, but he made the two when it counted.
Stetson would eventually tie the game at 83, but another three point specialist would give UNF momentum back. Jerron Granberry hit two straight three pointers, hitting the second with just seconds remaining on the shot clock, and gave UNF an 89-85 lead just before the final media timeout with 2:40 left to play.
Although UNF had taken a four point lead and had all of the momentum on its side, the game was not over. After the media timeout Stetsons Joel Naburgs made a layup and converted the one to make it an 89-88 game with 2:26 left. On UNF’s next possession Travis Wallace made a layup and converted one of his own to give UNF a 92-88 lead UNF a 98-90 lead.
After the missed second free throw, Stetson’s Aaron Graham, who had made three straight three pointers earlier in the half that kept Stetson in the game, made a three pointer with 8.2 seconds left. After the three, Stetson Head Coach Casey Alexander called a timeout. On the pursuing inbound, UNF turned the ball over and Naburgs hit a three pointer to make it a one possession, 98-96 game with just 4.6 seconds remaining
On the next inbound UNF was able to get the ball to Granberry and he was fouled immediately. Granberry hit the first free throw to make it 99-96, but he missed the second free throw. Stetson grabbed the rebound and Graham took a shot from half court that was on line but didn’t have enough muscle has it hit off of the front of the rim.
Granberry shot 80 percent (8-10) from the field and made all six of his three pointers. His 25 points are a season high and were just three points shy of his career high of 28.
Smith’s free throw with 25 seconds left in the game gave him 1,000 total points in his collegiate career (the 1,000 includes points from his one season at Tennessee State).
Although the Ospreys won in thrilling comeback fashion, it still had its struggles. UNF shot just 66.7 percent (14-21) from the free throw line and had 16 turnovers that led to 22 Stetson points. After the game UNF Head Coach Matthew Driscoll joked that the 66 percent was good because it was above the season average, but said the team needs a lot of work and will look to bring in recruits who can shoot free throws.
With the win UNF moved from seventh to sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings, owning the tie breaker over Lipscomb (11-13, 6-6). With a win over Florida Gulf Coast University (12-11, 7-5) Feb. 6 the team can gain a more comfortable position heading into the final five games of the season.
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