Jacksonville, Fla. — Parker Smith launched a three.
As the ball spun through the air of Veterans Memorial Area, the clock expired.
If the shot goes in, the Ospreys win the game, make a statement in a road game and gain momentum heading into the conference tournament. If it doesn’t, the Ospreys lose the game, another halftime lead and sink further to the bottom of the conference standings.
Smith’s shot thunked off the back of the rim and UNF lost to JU 70-68. UNF is 8th in the A-sun standings.
“[Ray Rodriguez] picked the ball up and gave it to me and all I heard was ‘shoot, shoot'” Smith said. “I just turned around and let it go, and it was just an inch long.”
“We got as good a look as we’re going to get with Parker,” head coach Matthew Driscoll said.
UNF has played poorly at the ends of games this season — JU has been clutch.
The Dolphins have won six games in over-time or by three points or less — including Friday’s win — but the team was on a three game losing steak coming into the night.
The game came down to a three point shot, but JU (13-14, 8-6 A-sun) won the game by owning the land below the rim. The Dolphins had a plus eight rebound margin (40-32) and scored 12 more points (32-20) in the painted area.
UNF (10-17, 5-9 A-sun) should have been able to keep pace inside, but the team missed multiple tip-backs and layups in the game including a tip back miss by junior Travis Wallace with 1:36 left and a one point lead. Wallace finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
UNF used a last second tip in by Charles McRoy to carry a 32-30 lead into halftime. The game marked the fourth time this season UNF has been tied or held the lead at halftime but walked away with a loss.
After halftime JU went on a quick 7-0 run to take a 5 point lead, 37-32. UNF countered with a run of its own later in the second half. A fade-away 3 in the faces of two defenders capped a 9-0 run and gave the Ospreys a 63-59 lead.
“We want to get hot going into the tournament and we were very confident coming into tonight,” Smith said. “It’s very frustrating.”
Senior point guard Will Wilson played the best game of his college carrer in the loss. Wilson finished the game will a carrer high 13 points on 5-9 shooting to go along with 9 assists and 5 steals. He was averaging 3.3 ppg heading into Friday’s game.
“Will has accepted coaching and accepted who he is and because of that has been able to shine this year,” Driscoll said.
Smith led all scorers with 22 points, but it was JU’s second leading scorer who was able to hit big shots when it mattered.
Despite turning the ball over eight times, JU’s Keith McDougald scored 16 points including three point shots that kept JU close.
Freshman Beau Beech continued to struggle. Beech was 0-7 from the field and finished with 2 points.
The Osprey’s possessed the ball for the last 13 seconds of the game. Smith felt the team could have managed a better shot with the amount of time left on the clock. He said the team set up a play to drive the ball into the lane and possibly score and get an “and-1” on the last play, but JU’s defense forced him into a contested jump shot.
“All losses are tough, but this one stings even more,” head coach Matthew Driscoll said.
UNF has four games remaining on its schedule this season and have not yet locked up a tournament birth. The team will look to end a two game skid against ETSU on Feb. 21
–Josh Brannock contributed to this article.