ASUN Semifinals: Sharpshooting Eagles too much for young Ospreys

Drew McDonald

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Photo by Lili Weinstein

The Battle of the Birds semifinal was a scoring bonanza Thursday Night at Alico Arena, but with a solid perimeter defense and consistent shooting, the top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles(23-10) emerged victorious, 95-72 to head to their third-straight final.

To set the opening salvo of the game, sophomore J.T. Escobar drained the first three ball as the Ospreys bench erupted. Fifth-seeded North Florida (14-19) began the game firing on all cylinders as they lead FGCU 15-9 at the first media timeout with all five starters in the scoring column.

ASUN Newcomer of the Year, Noah Horchler, finished the first half strong as he shot 80 percent from the field and pulled two boards. The Eagles also had the hot hand in shooting as they were 80 percent from beyond the arc with the help of Zack Johnson and Michael Gilmore, among others.

During the second half, the Eagles continued to implement their lockdown perimeter defense as they forced ten turnovers by the Ospreys. Two bright spots of offense in the second half for North Florida were Escobar and Trip Day.

Escobar added five treys in order to keep the Ospreys within striking distance before the Eagles began to pull away. The guard finished the night with a game-high 22 points.

Day has been a consistent shooter this season with an average shooting of 58 percent. In the second half, Day shot 71 percent with two rebounds, using his trademark hook shot to evade the Eagles defenders. His performance in the game as well as this season proved his worthiness on the ASUN All-Freshman team.

FGCU kept their foot on the gas and kept feeding the ball to shooters beyond the arc like Johnson who finished the game with 17 points. 15 of which came via the three-point shot. ASUN Player of the Year Brandon Goodwin led five other Eagles with 18 points. 

The Eagles outscored the Ospreys 40-28 in the second half.

At the end of the night, North Florida had 18 turnovers which lead to 34 FGCU’s points on the opposite end.

With the ASUN Semifinal loss, North Florida’s season has come to an end. Next year, the Ospreys have their sights on running the table at the ASUN Men’s Basketball Tournament to hopefully punch a ticket to March Madness.

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