Season recap: Ospreys defied the odds after an unsteady start

Ronnie Rodgers

Photo by Nicole Sutton

At the beginning of the season, when Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said that this would be the hardest non-conference schedule by far, he was right.

After losing key starters Beau Beech and Demarcus Daniels there was uncertainty over how UNF would fare during the season. The team suffered many hard losses early on, but recovered before losing their final game to end their season in the ASUN Championship.

North Florida began its season with a loss against the Auburn Tigers, who were able to hold star guard Dallas Moore to a season-low five points.

Three of UNF’s first four games were against Power Five conference teams LSU, Miami and Auburn, and they lost all of the matchups.

The team continued their shaky play as they lost six games in a row. During that slide they had to face one of their hardest matchups of the season.

As UNF geared up to face the No. 24 Florida, senior Chris Davenport was not at the game. UNF freshman Al-Wajid Aminu would start in his place. Over 4,100 people attended the game, making it the largest crowd of the season. The Ospreys would lose to the Gators despite Moore scoring 31 points.

After the game Driscoll revealed that Davenport was suspended indefinitely, but did not provide a reason. Davenport would not return until the middle of December. With the loss of a starter many people counted UNF out for the season.

The Osprey were able to temporarily stop the bleeding with a win against Thomas University, taking the game 110-18. The team rallied together with two career-highs in scoring and three double-doubles. Aminu scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

But their victory was short lived. The Birds of Trey would drop their next three games against Connecticut, FIU and Ball State.

Chris Davenport

Their schedule was stacked with away games against Power Five conference teams. The Ospreys did not fare well on the road, going 4-13 this season, and they did not win against bigger schools. But the experience that the players gained surely helped them once they began conference play.

ASUN Conference play was kinder to the Ospreys than the nonconference portion. North Florida won four of its first five ASUN games, including winning part one of the River City Rumble at JU.

The team would go on to lose its next three ASUN games, with two coming at the hands of ASUN regular season champs FGCU, and one from Stetson.

Things began to look up for the Ospreys. A win over Stetson at home would give the program its 300th win. In the very next game all of UNF’s starters would post double digit scoring efforts.

During the big win at Lipscomb Feb. 16, Moore would score a career-high 39 points, and with the help of freshman duo Garrett Sams and Aminu the Ospreys beat the Bisons. Moore would have 10 30-point games during his final season.

The Ospreys dropped their last regular season road game against Kennesaw State, despite Davenport having a career-high 28 points.

Before part two of the River City Rumble, Moore was given a game ball in commemoration of becoming the number one leading scorer in Florida Division One history, with 2,437 career points.

Seniors Aaron Bodager and Moore single handedly sent the Ospreys to the ASUN quarter-finals with 20+ point games. UNF would become the third seed and face their city rival once again the next Monday.

Photo by Lili Weinstein

It felt like a championship game was being played in the UNF Arena. Both sides knew exactly what was on the line and neither team wanted to disappoint their fans. With a 37-point game, Moore once again put the team on his back and carried them to the ASUN semi-finals. The team has beat JU nine straight times — three times this season alone.

Then the Ospreys traveled to face No. 2 Lipscomb, who they swept during the regular season. UNF has struggled on the road, but you could not tell by the way the Ospreys played at the Bisons. The Birds of Trey dropped a season-high 16 three balls during their win over Lipscomb.

With this win the team traveled to face No. 1 FGCU. The Eagles were the only team to sweep the Ospreys during the regular season. No. 1 FGCU and No. 3 UNF faced off for the third time this season, with a bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament on the line.

The Ospreys started off with hot shooting, but fizzled out fast during the second half. UNF went ice cold from the field and had an over six-minute scoring drought that they could not recover from. FGCU became the back-to-back ASUN champs after beating UNF 77-61, ending UNF’s season.

UNF’s Athletic Department said that the next step for the team is gearing up for the 2017-18 season. Next year is sure to be a rebuilding year for the Ospreys, after losing Moore, the best player in UNF history and two other key starters in Bodager and Davenport.

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