Ospreys face Gators in opening round of NIT

Will Weber

Demarcus Daniels after coming into contact with a player in the A-Sun semifinal against the FGCU Eagles   Photo by Connor Spielmaker
Demarcus Daniels after coming into contact with a player in the A-Sun semifinal against the FGCU Eagles Photo by Connor Spielmaker

The North Florida Ospreys learned Sunday night they will face the Florida Gators in the first round of National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Tuesday at 9 p.m. in the UNF Arena.

The Ospreys have faced the Gators twice since becoming a Division 1 team, and both match ups were held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. The Gators held a top-10 ranking each time, and beat the Ospreys by a combined 44 points.  Five current Ospreys saw playing time when the teams met most recently in 2013.

Star UNF point guard Dallas Moore will be competing with a familiar face Tuesday night when he lines up against Gator guard Kasey Hill. Moore and Hill played on the same team for three years before college.

“Kasey was really good, he still is really good,” Moore said. “But once you step on the court in-between the black lines friendship kind of goes out the way and it’s just a matter of winning.”

The Gators have made nine previous appearances in the NIT, going 11-11. The Osprey’s appearance will be the program’s first.

“This is exactly what I set out to do when I came to UNF,” senior Beau Beech said. “We went to the tournament last year but we haven’t won a postseason game yet so that’s the next task. Now were in another postseason tournament so let’s win one now.”

The Ospreys went 22-11 this year and won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title which clinched an automatic bid to the NIT.

The Gators, who were holding out hope of an NCAA March Madness tournament bid, went 19-14 and lost to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal.

The Ospreys have been waiting to learn their opponent since March 3, when Florida Gulf Coast ended their NCAA Tournament chances in the A-Sun Semifinals.

“To get a home game in the NIT against an SEC opponent is a pretty phenomenal and monumental game for our program and for our school,” UNF Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said.

The UNF coaching staff began preparation for likely opponents last week, and have narrowed the focus of their game plan.

“They’re going to rebound to dog out of you and they’re going to press you like a mad beast,” Driscoll said. “So, those are the two things we’ve really got to be prepared for.”

The winner will go on to play the winner of Ohio State vs Akron, and be sure to follow @SpinnakerSports for live tweets of the game.

 

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