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JU squeaks past Ospreys in OT

It took extra basketball to decide 2011’s first edition of the “River City Rumble,” but In front of a white-out crowd at the UNF Arena, the UNF men’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaking, 63-62 loss to the cross-town rival JU Dolphins.

Junior forward Delwan Graham connected on a pair of free throws with seven tenths of a second remaining in overtime that gave the Dolphins the one-point edge they needed. UNF had taken the lead when junior guard Jimmy Williams connected on one of two free throws with 13 seconds remaining.

“Obviously it was a very physical, a very demanding game, a game we expected,” said UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll. “It just came down to free throws and second-chance shots. I really thought our guys competed. I thought they never backed down. We’re good enough to be an upper echelon team, and we’ve got to find a way to beat an upper echelon team.”

The Ospreys had a number of chances to wrap the game up in overtime. However, they missed seven free throws down the stretch that took away any chance of them securing the win. They finished 14-28 from the line while JU actually shot worse going 11-27 for the game. However, the Dolphins did get the two they needed the most.

“I think probably fatigue had something to do with it along the way,” Driscoll said. “It’s a long very physical game. And we’ve been a very good free throw shooting team. We just didn’t knock them in when we needed to.”

Jacksonville had a chance to win the game in regulation when freshman forward Keion Palmer stepped to the free throw line with one second left in regulation. Palmer missed both sending the game into overtime.

“[Driscoll] told us that [Palmer] was going to miss those free throws from the beginning so we just had to secure the rebound,” said sophomore swingman Jerron Granberry. “[Driscoll] told we were going to win the game and we believed were too. We had so many opportunities and we just blew it.”

Both teams traded baskets early however it was the Ospreys who were able to grab the first relevant lead, which they held for most of the game. Two 3-pointers by sophomore guard Parker Smith, gave the Ospreys their largest lead of the first half, 24-16, with 2 minutes left. UNF took a 26-20 lead into halftime.

The Ospreys came out of the locker rooms and built their lead to nine when Smith again connected from long range. It would prove to be the Ospreys largest lead of the night. Smith finished the game with 15 points on 5-12 shooting from behind the arch.

“I was feeling really good,” Smith said. “That’s how I feel most of time. Every time I caught the ball and every time I shot I felt like it was going in. It was just one of those nights I felt really good about my shot.”

After the Smith 3-pointer that gave the Ospreys a 39-30 lead with 14:15 left in regulation, it seemed like the Dolphins flipped a switch and turned up the intensity. Crashing the boards, lead to second-chance opportunities, and helped JU to fight back and take the lead 53-52 with 2:30 left in regulation. It was JU’s first lead since 16:05 left in the first half when they held a 4-3 advantage.

JU was led by Graham who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

The Ospreys had a chance to take the lead late in regulation but senior guard Brad Haugabrook missed a contested lay up that would have given the Ospreys a 2-point lead with 30 seconds left to play.

The crowd played a large role in keeping the Ospreys energized, Granberry said. The building was rocking from the get go as 3351 fans gathered to see the two Atlantic Sun rivals square off in the first of two regular season meetings.

Driscoll, Granberry, and Smith all agreed that they played good enough to win. However, while they said they did do some things well, they are not taking any moral victories.

“That’s the first people we have to thank is the crowd for being out there and giving us so much support,” Granberry said. “But don’t get me wrong, moral victories are for little leaguers. We don’t do moral victories. We’re mad about this game and we aren’t going to let this get to our next against Campbell. We going to go practice tomorrow, and we’re going to practice Friday, and we are going to compete against Campbell on Saturday.”

The Ospreys take the court next on Saturday to take on Campbell at 7 p.m. inside the UNF Arena. The UNF women’s basketball team plays JU Thursday at the UNF Arena at 7 p.m.

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