UNF men’s basketball captures second Cancun Challenge title

Brianna Dillon

CancunChampions_UNFAthleticDepartment
UNF men’s basketball won their second Cancun Challenge title.
Photo courtesy UNF Athletic Department

The UNF men’s basketball team earns another trip to Mexico and another Cancun Challenge win. The Ospreys went 2-2 in the Mayan Division, claiming the title for the first time since 2010. The University of North Florida became the first team to win Triple Crown Sports’ annual Cancun Challenge twice.

North Florida vs. Northwestern; 67-69

Daniels
Daniels

In the tournament opener on Thursday, Nov. 20, the Ospreys fell to the Northwestern Wildcats 69-67 from Evanston, Ill. UNF’s Demarcus Daniels, a health science junior, missed a shot at the top of the key in the final seconds and the Wildcats made their final six shots including a Tre Demps jumper with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to put the team ahead. The Ospreys fell to 0-9 against Big 10 schools and 0-3 against Northwestern.

“The final five minutes of the game boiled down to players making plays on both sides,” UNF Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said. “I thought we competed hard throughout the game, but just failed to complete the game.”

Davenport
Davenport

Dallas Moore, a criminal justice sophomore, had 18 points and five assists and Chris Davenport, sophomore,  added 17 points. UNF shot 51 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from behind the arc.

North Florida vs. Northern Iowa; 49-66

Nesbitt
Nesbitt

In UNF’s second game of the Cancun Challenge on Saturday, Nov. 22, they fell to the Northern Iowa Panthers 66-49 from Cedar Falls, Iowa. Scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game they fell behind 18-0 and never recovered. They did make a charge cutting the score to 40-33, but were unable to complete the comeback. UNF’s Jalen Nesbitt, a criminal justice senior, led the team with 15 points.

North Florida vs. Liberty; 77-57

UNF was in a position to win the title after defeating the Liberty University Flames 77-57 in Cancun on Tuesday, Nov. 25. Moore led the team in scoring with 20 points, while Daniels added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Starting the game on a 16-2 run, the Ospreys held the lead throughout the game and closed on a 19-8 run.

“Today was a total team effort,” Driscoll said. “We got some big contributions from guys up and down the roster. I really love our guys’ consistent resiliency. I was especially proud of how we came out to play in the second half after struggling a little at the close of the first half. It is always exciting and our goal to play for championships and we have another opportunity tomorrow.”

North Florida vs. Elon; 72-65

In the championship game on Wednesday, Nov. 26 at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya the Ospreys defeated the Elon University Phoenix 72-65. The game was back and forth, with Moore holding down UNF with 21 points and 6 rebounds, including a series of timely floaters down the stretch.

Moore
Moore

UNF was up 33-30 at half when Elon came out in the second and went on a 13-5 run to claim their largest lead at 43-38. The Ospreys answered back with an 11-1 run, in which Moore scored 6 points and gave the team a 5 point lead.

The Ospreys closed out the final four minutes of the game on a 12-3 run. The Ospreys improve to 9-0 against non-conference teams on neutral floors.

“The guys never quit and we made the plays that needed to be made in order to win this championship,” Driscoll said.

Boding well for the Ospreys, in 2010 when they first won the Cancun Challenge they ended up competing in the A-Sun title game. At 3-3 they will look to continue their winning streak on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. when they will go up against Edward Waters, whom they beat 90-68 last time they met.

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