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UNF MBB loses to Division II Flagler, drops to 1-8 on the season

Riley Platt, Sports Writer

Featured Image: Connor Spielmaker

A rough start to the 2020-2021 season reached a new peak for the Ospreys when they hosted the Saints of Flagler College on Saturday evening. Flagler, an NCAA Division II program, had just a two percent chance to win according to ESPN’s win probability tracking tool. On paper, this would seem like it’d be an easy win for the Ospreys, but that was certainly not the case.

The Saints won the opening tipoff, but sloppy play ensued on both ends for the next few minutes as the teams got off to shaky starts. However, the Birds of Trey would get two buckets from three courtesy of guard Jose Placer and forward Jonathan Aybar. Across the court, Flagler guard Spencer Bain’s three-point shooting gave the Saints the lead, something they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.

The star of the night was, by far, Flagler guard Jaizec Lottie. The senior from Colorado simply could not be stopped, scoring 36 points on the night. Through just one half, Lottie had already accounted for 24 points. In a postgame press conference, UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll spoke on Lottie’s performance:

“The thing about him that makes him so difficult is the fact that he’s not afraid to pass either,” Driscoll said. “He gets four assists, no turnovers, so it isn’t just like he took 24 shots. He probably took 24 right shots too, and made some nice dimes and dishes as well.”

North Florida’s Jose Placer (15) scored a career-high 26 points for the Ospreys, but it wasn’t enough as UNF fell to Flagler on Saturday afternoon. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP) (AP)

Once the Ospreys got down, they just couldn’t take back control of the game. Despite a hot start offensively, UNF found itself down 41-33 going into halftime. The Ospreys saw a positive start to the second half, closing within one point four minutes into the half. This boost was mainly in part to the three-point shooting of Jose Placer. When asked about this stretch, the guard revealed his mindset at the time.

“Keep it going. Get stops. Get stops,” Placer said. “I think the biggest thing is our energy is hot when we’re making shots. When we’re not hitting, our energy goes away. We’ve just got to find a way to keep that momentum going when shots aren’t falling as well.”

Despite a back and forth night, the Ospreys tied the game back up with around three minutes remaining in the second half. Unfortunately, the UNF defense struggled yet again, failing to seize control. A dunk by Flagler forward Jalen Barr sealed the deal, as the Ospreys fell by a score of 73-66.

While this was by no means a positive result, Coach Driscoll did have positive takeaways. He expressed congratulatory remarks to Flagler, stating that “They earned this thing from the get-go” and that “They were the more aggressive team.” The takeaway he chose to highlight was the play of forward Jonathan Aybar. The freshman was a presence in the paint, collecting six rebounds and three blocks. Here’s what Driscoll had to say regarding Aybar’s play:

“He played 17 minutes, and [the team] was +17 points (plus/minus statistic) when he was on the floor,” Driscoll said. “We were winning by 17 points when he was able to stay on the floor.”

Driscoll also noted that foul trouble has become an issue due to Aybar’s inexperience in college hoops. This is sure to improve as the season continues, as Aybar’s presence on the floor will be vital to success as the conference schedule is set to begin soon.

The Ospreys will have an opportunity to bounce back from this painstaking loss on Monday night when they host Edward Waters at UNF Arena. Follow along with Spinnaker News for the latest on UNF basketball.

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