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ETSU ends UNF’s season in closely-contested contest

Head Coach Matthew Driscoll and high scorer Parker Smith reflect on the Ospreys' 2-point loss to ETSU in the first round of the Atlantic Sun tournament March 1. UNF is 1-13 all-time against ETSU.


A last second heave didn’t fall for Parker Smith, and East Tennessee State held off UNF 68-66 to end the Ospreys’ season in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Tournament March 1.


A double-teamed Smith airballed a three in the closing seconds, a last ditch effort in the last possession of the game after ETSU missed two big free throws down the stretch allowing UNF to go for the win in the last 22 seconds. But the Buccaneer defense was stiff, as it was the entire second half, and the Ospreys couldn’t get off a good shot.


“It wasn’t the shot I wanted,” Smith said after the game. “I just tried to get around [Isiah] Brown and the next guy was right there, so I just had to throw it up, see if we could get a tip in or something.”


There was no such tip in, and ETSU earned a three-game sweep over the Ospreys –– sweet revenge for last year’s A-Sun tournament when UNF upset the second-seeded Buccaneers in the second round, only to lose emphatically to Belmont in the final.


This year, ETSU will get their shot at the conference’s perennial favorite, Belmont, in a semifinal matchup on Friday at the Mercer University Center in Macon.


UNF started strong in this matchup, taking a 19-11 lead after an 11-3 run midway through the first half. But ETSU recovered, going on a run of their own, and leading by as many as 7 in the first half.   Senior Jimmy Williams nailed a three as time expired in the first half, closing UNF to within three, 41-38.


ETSU clamped down on defense in the second half, holding UNF to under 30 percent from the field and only 2-13 from three, which the Ospreys relied heavily on as they did all season.


Smith, a junior, led the way with 17 of UNF’s 29 attempted threes, making just five, and only one in the second half. He still lead UNF in scoring with 17.


Junior Jerron Granberry, UNF’s other sharpshooter, struggled all afternoon, going only three of 12 from the field including two of nine from long range. Despite the poor percentage, Granberry was UNF’s second leading scorer with 12. Williams also was in double figures with 10.


“We were making good plays, but like anything else in life, when people make adjustments you’ve got to make adjustments,” said UNF Head Coach Matthew Driscoll. “We probably needed to make a couple of adjustments and do a couple of different things. I thought we got those guys a couple of good looks and usually we make them, but for whatever reason we didn’t [tonight].”


Senior Isiah Brown led the way for ETSU, scoring a game high 22 points, and set the ETSU school record for blocks with his second and final block of the game. He was unstoppable on the block all afternoon long, going 9-15 from the field, impressing Driscoll.


“We tried four different things on him. Down the stretch I think he missed three straight when we just kept fighting and fighting and fighting him,” he said. “To his credit, he’s played extremely well down the stretch [this season]. I’m surprised he wasn’t an all-league player.”


The other Buccaneer seniors assisted in Brown’s effort, as Tommy Hubbard chalked up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Adam Sollazzo scored 13. Junior Marcus Dubose also chipped in 13 points.


“The three seniors carried us, which in most every game this year the three seniors have been the key guys for us,” said ETSU Head Coach Murry Bartow. “They’ve been good all their careers and they’ve been to two NCAA tournaments so they know how to win.”


Unlike ETSU, UNF returns four of their five starters next year.


ETSU continues their march towards the final against Belmont March 2 at 6 p.m. at the Mercer University Center. UNF has to wait until next year for their chance at the A-Sun crown.

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