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Men’s basketball splits a pair of A-Sun games

The UNF men’s basketball team split a pair of home Atlantic Sun games, first coming just short of a comeback against East Tennessee State Jan. 13, before shooting its way to a win over USC Upstate Jan. 15.

In the first game of the two-game home stand, it was a slow start by the Ospreys that proved too much for them to overcome. The Buccaneers jumped out early 23-13 but didn’t stop there. They eventually built their lead to 34-20 as both teams headed for the locker rooms at halftime.

“First, you have to give credit to ETSU,” UNF sophomore forward Jerron Granberry said. “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 [strong] second half like that, you got to say, ‘Well, gosh, where was that the first half?’ ”

The second half was a different story as the Ospreys erased the 14-point halftime deficit. When junior guard Jimmy Williams converted on a three-point play that gave the Ospreys the lead with 5:56 remaining, it appeared UNF was going to steal the win.

However, a steal and a three-point play by the Buccaneers with less than a minute left gave ETSU a four-point lead they would never relinquish, as the Ospreys fell 61-66.

“In the crucial plays of the game, just like at Lipscomb, the same thing happened,” UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll said. “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 three players in double figures, led by Williams, who scored 11 while Granberry and junior forward Matt Sauey added 10 points apiece.

After the game Driscoll said the Ospreys needed to play with a sense of urgency heading into their next game against USC Upstate.

“The cards have been dealt for the first half of the season,” Driscoll said. “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.”

It appeared his team took that message to heart as the Ospreys used a quick start to jump out in front of Upstate, eventually snapping their three-game losing skid with a 65-59 win.

Both teams started the game going back-and-forth before the Ospreys (6-12, 3-4 Atlantic Sun) used five straight three-pointers to help them build a nine-point lead with 2:50 remaining in the first half. Granberry hit a pair of threes while senior guard Brad Haugabrook, and sophomore guards Parker Smith and Will Wilson each added one apiece. The Ospreys made seven of 12 shots from behind the arc in the first half and finished sinking 10 of 24 for the game.

The Spartans came back in the second half, eventually tying the game at 43, and it began to look like the Ospreys would lose another tough game.

However, every play the Ospreys didn’t make two nights before against ETSU, they made this time against the Spartans. Strong second half performances by Smith and Williams, who had 10 and eight second-half points respectively, helped the Ospreys reclaim the lead. Four free throws by Smith and sophomore forward David Jeune, and a Sauey block on a Spartan three-point attempt with under a minute left was all the Ospreys needed to hold onto the victory.

“I’m really, really proud of the way our guys responded after two days and two tough losses,” Driscoll said. “I think the one thing our guys figured out is that maybe we are pretty good when we guard like we did tonight, and we share the ball the way we shared it tonight.”

The Ospreys are in the middle of five days with no games, however they hit the road again Jan. 20 for a two-game roadtrip that will start with Kennesaw State before taking on Mercer Jan. 22. The Ospreys return home to play Jacksonville University in the “River City Rumble,” Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. inside the UNF Arena.

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