Column: Leader of the Flock

Travis Gibson

Photo Credit: Sean Patterson
Travis Wallace (1) shows some fire in a game against JU.

Coming off its fourth straight loss, after losing to FGCU, Jan. 31, the team found itself staring a fifth one right in the face in the game against Stetson, Feb. 2.

UNF was down by 19 points before either team broke a sweat.

It was halfway through the first half, and over 1500 fans sat in silence as each tick of the clock signified a seemingly inevitable end — another conference loss.

The loudest cheers from the crowd came when the dance team tossed free t-shirts into the hands of a few lucky patrons. And who could blame them? Free t-shirts are much more exciting than getting thumped by a team whose mascot is a cowboy hat.

But junior Travis Wallace never let his eyes hit the floor.

Wallace scored a seemingly innocuous putback layup as time expired in the first half, sending UNF to the locker room with a 12-point deficit — 35-23.

After the shot, Wallace sprinted off the court and out of sight. That play was later said to be a key moment in the game by head coach Matthew Driscoll.

UNF has had a habit of collapsing in the second half this season, and the fans had no reason to expect otherwise against Stetson.

I was already trying to think of potential headlines using the words “groundhog” and “hibernate”.

In a column that ran in the Jan. 30 issue of the Spinnaker, I questioned the leadership of the players on the team, and said not having a clear-cut leader on the floor was a key factor in UNF’s recent lackluster record.

Now, I don’t know if anyone on the team reads my column, but whether it was coincidence or not, Wallace stepped up to the plate Saturday night.

During pre-game warm-ups Wallace was the most vocal player on the court. You could see the energy exuding from him as he stalked up and down the court, taking time to pump up each of his teammates.

Wallace carried his energy through the game, and out of the locker room after halftime.

The team started the second half on a 13-0 run and took the lead after six minutes.

UNF went on to score 41 points in the second frame, and held on to win 64-59.

The comeback win was a result of total team effort — especially defensively — but Driscoll made it a point to single out Wallace’s leadership after the game.

Driscoll noticed the change against FGCU two days prior. He complemented Wallace on his vocal leadership, despite the loss to the Eagles.

The game against Stetson has the potential to be a turning point in UNF’s season.

UNF learned two important things against Stetson — they can win a game even if they get behind early, and Travis Wallace is the leader of the team.

If Wallace can rally the troops and lead UNF to an improbable Conference Championship come March, he may even have a movie written about him, just like another Wallace — William Wallace of Braveheart fame.

Now that guy was a leader.