Highlanders best Ospreys in late game shootout

Drew McDonald, Sports Editor

Khorri Newton
Junior Garrett Sams goes up for the ball in heavy traffic. Photo by Khorri Newton

NJIT snuck out with a win at UNF Arena with hot shooting in a 76-72 Osprey loss. 

As the game began, the Ospreys were working the inside in the first three minutes of the game as their first eight points came from inside the paint. Junior Garrett Sams landed the first Ospreys three of the game from the right wing. The game was tied at 14 with less than 12 minutes left until Junior Ivan Gandia-Rosa fired a three-pointer for the 17-14 lead. Senior Diandre Wilson quickly countered with a three of his own to tie the game at 17.

Both teams continued to stay neck and neck through the meat of the first half. Junior Noah Horchler finished a layup with a less than a second on the clock to put the Ospreys within one at the half, 31-30, NJIT. Junior Wajid Aminu led the team with nine points at the half as well as recording 10 rebounds. The Highlanders held the Ospreys to 30 percent shooting from short and long range. 

A teardrop floater from Gandia-Rosa tied the game at 37 early in the second half. In the first five minutes of the second half, the Ospreys have made five of their six shots from the field. The momentum was balanced between both sides as each team countered with shots like a competitive ping pong match.

Halfway through the second half, the Ospreys shot 66 percent from the field. Sophomore Ryan Burkhardt and Freshman Carter Hendricksen shot back-to-back threes to stretch the lead to 56-50, Ospreys. The Highlanders continued to chip away at the lead as they reached within one until Gandia-Rosa hit a three to put the Ospreys up, 61-57. Sophomore Zach Cooks answered with a three of his own to set the score at 61-60, UNF.

Showing off his range, Horchler hit a three from up top to put the Ospreys up, 66-62. Senior Abdul Lewis nailed back-to-back jumpers but the game was tied at 68 on a thunderous alley-oop by Aminu. Sophomore Shawndale Jones finished a layup to put the Highlanders up, 70-68, as Gandia-Rosa finished one of his won to tie it at 70 with 36 seconds left in the game. Cooks hit a three from up top to extend the lead to 73-70 Highlanders with 10 seconds left in the game. After being fouled, the Highlanders were up 76-70. Hendricksen made the first two free throws but the third attempt was missed as the Ospreys ended up losing,76-72.

Coach Matthew Driscoll talked to the Spinnaker about his postgame thoughts.

“They were tougher than us down the stretch with seven straight buckets. We took the lead by four and didn’t execute, we took a bad shot, and they came down and got buckets. If I’m being honest, this team should be undefeated right now at the top of the league. We should have beat Liberty at Liberty. We had Lipscomb on their heels, we should have beat Lipscomb at Lipscomb, which is what we’ve done four of the last five times,” Driscoll said.

Gandia-Rosa led the team in scoring with 18 points and dished out six assists. The leader in assists in the ASUN talked to the Spinnaker about his thoughts in the final two minutes of the game.

“We have to close this game out, we got to get way tougher, we want to be a championship team,” Gandia-Rosa said.

The loss drops UNF to 9-12 (3-3 ASUN) and the win bumps NJIT to 15-5 (3-2 ASUN). The Ospreys look to right the ship as they play at home on Thursday, Jan. 24 against cross-town rival, Jacksonville University, as part of the River City Rumble.

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