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Women’s basketball clinches A-Sun tournament berth

The UNF women’s basketball team clinched its Atlantic Sun Tournament berth and moved to second place in the conference with its 55-49 win over its cross-town rival, the JU Dolphins, Feb. 8 inside the Jacksonville Veteran Memorial Arena.

The victory marks the fifth straight win for the Ospreys. UNF beat JU, 58-44, Jan. 27 at the UNF Arena. They have also won nine out their last 10 games. The Ospreys were coming off a pair of home wins where they grabbed a 58-46 decision against Lipscomb Feb. 3 and a 61-56 win Feb. 5 over Belmont. JU was also coming off back-to-back wins over Belmont and Lipscomb.

“We’re finding a way to win,” said UNF head coach Mary Tappmeyer. “We’ve had moments where we played pretty well, and then obviously we’ve had moments where we’re really young and we got to get a lot better.”

UNF jumped out of the gates early, riding a trio of jump shots by junior guard Brittany Kirkland and back-to-back layups by senior guard Juliemay Syquio. It helped the Ospreys take a 10-2 lead just four minutes into the game. While the quick start set the tone for the Ospreys, JU couldn’t find the basket in the first half.

The Dolphins didn’t reach double digits until there was 2:25 left in the first half. By that point UNF had a comfortable 24-10 lead. UNF held the Dolphins to a dismal 17.2 first-half field goal percentage on five of 29 shooting.

“It’s what we’ve been working on,” Tappmeyer said. “Our defense has been really good. I think we did a really good job defensively. We were really locked in and focused.”

A jumper by junior forward Margaret Bell capped a 10-4 UNF run to end the half. The Ospreys lead 28-12 at intermission.

UNF came out of the locker rooms with another quick start. Five points from sophomore center Larkira Jones helped the Ospreys to a 12-6 run to open the half, giving them their largest lead of the night, 40-16, with 14:21 left to play.

However, JU wouldn’t go down without a fight. A 3-pointer by senior guard Gigi Thomas sparked a 28-12 JU run that would get the Dolphins back in the game. JU cut the lead to 52-46, with 1:12 to play.

“We got to stop getting complacent,” said sophomore forward Taylor Smith. “We got to stop making it seem it’s so easy just to have the lead. We can’t settle for anything because that’s how people come back.”

A layup by sophomore guard Maggie Wilson pulled the Dolphins within five with less than 30 seconds to play. But it was to little too late for the Dolphins, who suffered their first regular season sweep ever by the Ospreys.

Three players led the way for the Ospreys, including Syquio with 12 points. Kirkland chipped in 11 and freshman guard Jade Givens added 10. Senior forward Taneske Richardson led the way for JU with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The team’s next game will be on the road against East Tennessee State Feb.12 at 1:30 p.m.

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