North Florida kicks off Homecoming week with a win over USC Upstate; Gandia-Rosa sets record

DeAndre Pearson

Video by Joslyn Simmons

The North Florida Ospreys(12-17 Overall, 6-6 ASUN) hangs on to the win at home over the USC Upstate Spartans (7-22 Overall, 3-10 ASUN) on Feb. 15 in a record-setting night, 109-100.

In a high-scoring contest, UNF fought from behind and bested the Spartans in their opening game to kick off Homecoming Week.

“The one thing we asked them to do during this week is really look at themselves in the mirror,” Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said. “And really come up with an estimation of exactly who they are and what their value is, and how it fits into what we do.”

In the opening half, Upstate sent an early message that they were not going to make life easy for the Ospreys by dialing up threes. In just four minutes into the game, the Spartans were red-hot from behind the arc shooting 4-for-5. Baskets from Wajid Aminu kept North Florida hanging around. The Ospreys quickly found themselves in an early double-digit deficit at the first timeout.

Midway through the half, North Florida had buckled down on defense and forced USC Upstate to take some uncomfortable shots. Upstate only made one point during this period. The Ospreys were able to capitalize on the missed shots and went on an 18- 1 run. The Ospreys also took the lead for the first time in the game with 3:00 to go. 

In the final minutes of the first half, both teams began trading baskets before the half ended with North Florida up, 47-42.

Coming out of halftime, North Florida was rocking with a chase down block from Noah Horchler followed by a three from him, a few possessions later.

When asked about whether Osprey fans will see more of chase down blocks, Horchler smiled and said “whenever the opportunity comes.” The Ospreys were leading by as much as 12 points before the Spartans battled back. A smooth jumper from Upstate guard Deion Holmes combined with a layup from forward Isaiah Anderson brought the deficit to seven.  

Midway through the second half, Upstate looked as if they may flip the script from North Florida, but a great bench performance kept that from happening. Ryan Burkhardt knocked down a pair of big three-pointers and guard Emmanuel Lambright knocked down a three as well.

In the final minutes of the game, North Florida knocked down crucial free throws to keep the Spartans at bay despite a furious late game rally from Holmes and guard Mike Cunningham.

The Ospreys finished the game shooting 80 percent (21-26) from the free throw line. North Florida outscored USC Upstate with points in the paint 52-38, and outworked the visiting team in bench points, 37-28.

Active performances from Aminu combined with Horchler in the paint caused plenty of trouble for the Spartan defense. Both players combined for 17 of the team’s 35 rebounds. Aminu scored 29 points while leading five other Ospreys in double-figures.

Ivan Gandia-Rosa finished the night with 15 points and 18 assists. Gandia-Rosa’s performance has set a new UNF performance in assists and broke the previous 10-year-old ASUN record. Gandia-Rosa remained focused despite growing anticipation of the record.

“I really didn’t pay attention to it,” Gandia-Rosa said “I just wanted the win”.

Holmes scored 27 points for Upstate while leading five other Spartans in double figures.

The Ospreys are now locked in a four-way battle with NJIT (13-14 Overall, 6-6 ASUN), Jacksonville (12-17 Overall, 6-6 ASUN) and Kennesaw State (10-17 Overall, 6-6 ASUN) for third place in the ASUN.

North Florida will remain home at the UNF Arena against NJIT (13-14 Overall, 6-6 ASUN) for Homecoming on Feb.17 at 7 p.m.


Photo Gallery by Joslyn Simmons

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