Season in rewind: The Ospreys
make history

Joslyn Simmons

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In the best season ever for the University of North Florida Ospreys, their mark has been made on the national spotlight. The Ospreys made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season following their first ever Atlantic Sun Championship victory.

Earlier this season the Ospreys snapped an 11 game losing streak when they took a win at Purdue. Photo courtesy John Underwood/Purdue Athletics

Earlier this season the Ospreys snapped an 11 game losing streak when they took a win at Purdue.
Photo courtesy John Underwood/Purdue Athletics

Earlier this season, the Ospreys stunned Big Ten Conference contender Purdue in Indiana with a 73-70 victory in the final minutes. While handing Purdue its first home loss of the season, this victory snapped the 11-game losing streak the Ospreys had against Big Ten Conference opponents.

After this victory, Osprey Head Coach Matthew Driscoll expressed his happiness for his team’s accomplishment.

The team grabbed two victories against FGCU, including one in front of the Eagles home crowd. Photo courtesy Linwood Ferguson/Captive Photons

The team grabbed two victories against FGCU, including one in front of the Eagles home crowd.
Photo courtesy Linwood Ferguson/Captive Photons

“I can’t put into words how excited and proud I am of this group of guys,” Driscoll said. “Our guys just battled and had a sustained effort for the full 40 minutes. We were able to get defensive stops down the stretch and had players make plays. This was definitely a total team effort with so many guys stepping up and doing good things for us. It is a big win for this team, our program, our fans but also for all the former players who laid the foundation and played those tough road games against the big conference teams. It’s a great day to be an Osprey. SWOOP!”

When conference play came around the Ospreys rolled over their competition. In the battle for the number one seed in the A-Sun, the Ospreys knocked off the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles twice to grab the number one seed in the A-Sun playoffs.

UNF lost twice to USC Upstate in the regular season, and had to play them for the final Atlantic Sun Championship. Photo by Camille Shaw

UNF lost twice to USC Upstate in the regular season, and had to play them for the final Atlantic Sun Championship.
Photo by Camille Shaw

After their victory in front of the Eagles home crowd, Driscoll expressed his approval.

“I told the team before the game that this felt a lot like playing at Mercer a year ago when they had some long win streaks going,” Driscoll, who has now led the Ospreys to record setting totals for overall and conference wins in a season, said. “I told them it would require us taking our games to a different level and that’s exactly what they did tonight. I thought our guys really just played fantastic.”

“For a stretch in the second half we seemed to be trading baskets with them and I thought we would just need to keep scoring to win, but our guys dug down and did a great job of getting stops down the stretch which allowed us to open up the lead. I was so proud of the way we guarded and rebounded tonight. Again, it was another tremendous team effort,” Driscoll said.

UNF Arena saw its largest crowd in history for the championship round of the Atlantic Sun tournament, and the Ospreys clinched a victory against the Spartans. Photo by Camille Shaw

UNF Arena saw its largest crowd in history for the championship round of the Atlantic Sun tournament, and the Ospreys clinched a victory against the Spartans.
Photo by Camille Shaw

After victories over the Stetson Hatters and the Lipscomb Bisons in the A-Sun Tournament, the Ospreys faced the USC Upstate Spartans in the championship final. North Florida had lost twice to the Spartans in the regular season. With the NCAA Tournament in reach for the Ospreys the UNF Arena was rocking as the Ospreys found revenge over the Spartans with a 63-57 victory and clinched the automatic-bid into the Big Dance.

“These guys have been something all year long,” Driscoll said after the Ospreys’ victory of USC Upstate. “They’ve been resilient and they’ve been 1-0 every night.”

The North Florida campus was buzzing with NCAA Tournament excitement. Their ticket was punched to Dayton, Ohio to face the Robert Morris Colonials out of Moon Township, Penn.

The Ospreys fought hard during the NCAA First Four tournament, but took a loss to Robert Morris in Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Morgan Purvis

The Ospreys fought hard during the NCAA First Four tournament, but took a loss to Robert Morris in Dayton, Ohio.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

The Ospreys put up a good fight against the Colonials with turnovers being the killer that stopped the Ospreys from advancing to the next round. Robert Morris walked off the court and into the second round with an 81-77 victory over North Florida. After their defeat, Driscoll expressed how proud he was of his team and what they accomplished over the season.

“God has truly honored me to be at the University of North Florida,” the six-year head coach said. “I’m honored that these young men represented our conference and most importantly our school and they represented them the right way and represented them well. We’re obviously very disappointed with the final result tonight, but in life sometimes those things occur.”

Although this season is over, the Ospreys will return with a full roster next season and a large chance of returning to the NCAA tournament.  Photo by Morgan Purvis

Although this season is over, the Ospreys will return with a full roster next season and a large chance of returning to the NCAA tournament.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

“The most important thing is what you do next and how you handle the next thing. I thought we executed offensively well enough to win because with 77 points scored we usually win. The turnovers were what really hurt us especially since several of them were self-inflicted. I probably should have done a better job during their late run of using a timeout and maybe running a special play or two to try and get us back in the flow. Overall, I’m very proud of this team and all they accomplished for themselves and the University of North Florida.”

Senior guards Jalen Nesbitt and Devin Wilson will be graduating this May, leaving their legacy behind to be built upon next season when the Ospreys return to the hardwood. With a familiar roster coming back next season, North Florida’s chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament look good, with the spotlight not too far behind.

Graphic by Caitlyn Broyles

Graphic by Caitlyn Broyles

*3/24/2015 at 11:46 a.m. – Updated with graphic of men’s basketball season.

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