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UNF loses to Robert Morris in NCAA Tournament play-in game

Photo by Morgan Purvis

DAYTON, Ohio–The University of North Florida Ospreys failed to earn a 16 seed spot in the NCAA Tournament as they lost their play-in game in Dayton, Ohio against the Robert Morris Colonials. The final score was 81-77. Turnovers were once again a common denominator for the Ospreys as they coughed up a total of 19 on the night, which the Colonials ended up capitalizing on.

“Giving up 52 points in a half is unlike us, not close to what we’ve been playing during this eight-game winning streak,” UNF’s Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said. “So, you gotta give Robert Morris a ton of credit for turning those into 21 points which was the difference in the game.”

In the opening minutes, the Ospreys (23- 12) hit first behind senior guard Jalen Nesbitt’s jumper. The Colonials (20- 14) would not be held down long with the help of UNF’s five turnovers in the early minutes. The Ospreys would have a scoring drought that lasted over three and a half minutes before junior forward Beau Beech connected from behind the arc multiple times.

“It was hard to breathe for a little bit,” Nesbitt said. “It was cold out there [on the court] but after the nerves got out, I thought we were pretty good.” Despite it being a full house in the University of Dayton Arena, Nesbitt didn’t think it was was a  factor. “I didn’t even pay attention to them; I was so into the game, I didn’t even notice.”

The Colonials would go through their own four and a half minute scoring drought before Robert Morris’ senior guard Lucky Jones hit two out of three free throws late in the first half to make the score 35-27. Minutes later, the Ospreys jogged into the locker room at halftime with a 35-29 lead.

In the second half, the Ospreys continued where they left off with a pair of three pointers from Beech to extend their lead over the Colonials. The Colonials, however, would chip away at the Ospreys’ lead early in the second half on the shoulders of Robert Morris’ freshman guard Marcquise Reed, freshman forward Elijah Minnie and junior guard Rodney Pryor.

“We just started getting complacent and didn’t take care of the ball,” Nesbitt said. “We got too comfortable when we got in the lead and started making careless mistakes.”

Later in the second half, the Colonials took the lead and extended it to 73-66 with the Ospreys in foul trouble. UNF was never able to regain the lead.

The Ospreys tried extending the game during the final seconds, but the team came up short.

“Nineteen turnovers is the most we’ve had all year, I think,” UNF’s Demarcus Daniels, who contributed eight points on the night, said. “They only turned the ball over five times. Plus 14 is a terrible margin and it’s hard to overcome that. You just can’t turn the ball over that much and expect to get the win.”

Beech led the Ospreys with 28 points for the night. The Colonials were steered by Lucky Jones with 21 points and Rodney Pryor, who finished the game with 20. Jones, a senior, came off of the bench to lead his team to victory.

“The basketball game is full of runs, and I think we just took our time and felt them getting on their heels,” Jones said. “We had to take it stop by stop and get the best shot(s) for our team.”

Tonight’s loss will bring the Ospreys’ season to a close, while the Colonials advance to the second round to face No. 1 seed Duke on March 20 in Charlotte, NC.

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Gallery photos by Morgan Purvis

*3/18/15 at 10:15 p.m. – Updated with quotes

*3/18/15 at 10:35 p.m. – Updated with video

*3/20/15 at 1:00 p.m. – Updated with cutlines

For more information or news tips, contact [email protected] ; if you see an error in this story, contact [email protected].

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