Ospreys get revenge on cross-town rivals, advance to A-Sun semis

Spinnaker

MACON, Ga – Third times the charm for the No. 6 UNF men’s basketball team who avenged two regular season losses to No. 3 Jacksonville University by defeating them 68-64 in the quarter finals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament, Thursday, in the Mercer University Center.

“I thought in the second half our guys fought their tail off,” said head coach Matthew Driscoll. “I think these guys are understanding what it takes to get to that next level. We want to be an upper echelon team.”

UNF trailed for most of the game and by as many as 10 with 11:17 to play but came roaring back to complete the come-from-behind victory. UNF took the lead, 61-59, after a hook shot by sophomore forward Andy Diaz was goal tended by JU’s Keion Palmer. It was UNF’s first lead since they held a 5-3 advantage with 16:41 left in the first half.

The turning point that sparked the Osprey comeback came in the form of back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore guards Jerron Granberry and Parker Smith. Starting with those shots from behind the arch, the Ospreys outscored JU 24-14 in the last 8 minutes of the game.

“We’ve been in so many close games that we were bound to get one of them and finally we did,” Granberry said. “It was just a team effort like coach said. There should be more people up here like [junior guard] Jimmy Williams. He did so much that people did not see. Parker Smith and [freshman forward] Charles McRoy came off the bench and gave us huge minutes. We we’re bound to get on and finally we did.”

Sophomore forward Andy Diaz made the defensive play of the game with 30 seconds left and the Ospreys up 63-60. Diaz jumped out and blocked a potential game tying 3-pointer by JU’s freshman guard Keith McDougald. He didn’t stop with just blocking it though. He then grabbed the ball and got it into the hands of Williams, who put the game away with two free throws.

Diaz played huge all night for the Ospreys. Playing down low with the size that JU puts on the court was a tall task. JU held a 34-29 rebound advantage. However, UNF grabbed six more rebounds than JU in the second half, helping the Ospreys to the upset victory.

“I think we had 12 rebounds down the stretch,” Driscoll said. “We got big stops down the stretch. We got big rebounds. Made big free throws and made big shots. It was just a great opportunity for us.”

The Ospreys were led by Granberry who shot a blistering 7-8 from the field. He finished with 23 points and four rebounds. Diaz added 19 points and seven rebounds, while Williams pitched in 12 points, nine coming in the second half, and nine rebounds.

The win over Dolphins was a long time coming for UNF, who had lost the last 11 matchups between the cross-town rivals. However, Granberry said they didn’t treat the game any different. After losing to JU by a combined three points in two games this season, the Ospreys knew they could beat them.

“We don’t want to sound arrogant but we expected to win that game,” Granberry said. “It just happened to be JU. It didn’t matter who we played. We were going to win that first round. And now we’re going to the second round and we’re competing for championships.”

UNF advances to the semi finals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament where they will play No. 2 East Tennessee State. The Ospreys lost both matchups against ETSU this season, first falling at home, 61-66, Jan. 13, before dropping a 57-80 decision in Johnson City, Feb. 13. Tip off is Friday at 9 p.m. inside the Mercer University Center, in Macon Ga.