Ospreys comeback falls short against ETSU


The University of North Florida men’s basketball team erased a 14-point East Tennessee State halftime advantage to comeback and lead late, however the Buccaneers proved to be too much for the Ospreys who dropped a 66-61 decision on Thursday night, inside the UNF Arena

With the loss the Ospreys fall to 5-12 and 2-4 in the Atlantic Sun on the season. They have also lost nine of their last 10 contests. ETSU improves to 11-7 and 6-1 in conference play.

“First you have to give credit to ETSU,” said sophomore forward Jerron Granberry. “They came out strong. They came out like they wanted it more than us. For us to come out that sloppy and that slow, and then for us to put out a second half like that you got to say ‘well gosh where was that the first half?’”

Heading into the Thursday night’s game, UNF was 0-9 all-time against the Buccaneers. The Ospreys came out flat in the opening minuets and it appeared that the losing trend against the Buccaneers would continue as ETSU jumped out to a 23-13 lead half way through the first half. They would eventually take a 34-20 lead in to the half

However, The Ospreys came out of the half with a lot of defensive intensity. Multiple defensive stops, lead to fast break points for the Ospreys, who fought all the way back to tie the game at 43-43 with seven minutes left in the game. Guard Jimmy Williams gave the Ospreys the lead after a three-point play with 5:56 left to play.

“I guess coach just had to get in to us, and change our minds and make us want it more,” said forward David Jeune. “

Both the teams went back and forth for the remainder of the game until a steal by ETSU lead to a three-point play and a four-point lead that the Buccaneers would never let go.

“In the crucial plays of the game just like at Lipscomb the same thing happened,” said head coach Matthew Driscoll. “Guys make plays, guys get put backs. Guys do certain things and just go to another level. In the last two and a half minutes I’m not sure if we just ran out of gas.”

The Ospreys had a balanced scoring attack with Williams leading the way with 11 points, and forwards Granberry and Matt Sauey both adding 10 points a piece. Every player who played scored for the Ospreys except for guard Will Wilson.

However, it wasn’t enough to hold off the Buccaneers in the end, who were led by a double team of scoring in the form of guards Micah Williams and Mike Smith who both scored 19 points for the Buccaneers.

The turnover battle, something Driscoll has preached throughout the season that his team needed to win, also tilted in the Buccaneers direction. While both teams forced 14 turnovers, ETSU turned those mistakes in to 21 points while the Ospreys only scored 15 off turnovers.

“I think there’s a theme here going around,” Driscoll said. “Sometimes when your offense isn’t going well, then your defense gets subjected to it unfortunately. And we’ve never had that identity here at the University of North Florida in my year and a half that I’ve been here. And somehow that’s going to have to change.

Thursday night’s game was the first in a stretch of games that will see the Ospreys at home, for five of their next seven games. The Ospreys spent 13 of their first 16 games of the season away from the UNF Arena.

The Ospreys take the court next on Saturday at 7 p.m. against USC Upstate at home inside the UNF Arena. While the Ospreys still have 14 Atlantic Sun games left, Driscoll is calling Saturday’s game a “must win.”

“Saturday is a must win,” Driscoll said. “The cards have been dealt for the first half of the season. They’re no longer on the table. They’ve been discarded. The cards are dealt now in a very favorable manner for these young men. It is a must win for us to come out Saturday.”