Ospreys knock off first-place Jacksonville State in upset of the year

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. — The Ospreys strung together their best performance of the season, taking down the ASUN’s top team on Thursday.

In a season where seemingly everything has gone wrong, everything went right in UNF’s biggest win of the year. In a season where three-pointers have been hard to come by at times, they were bountiful Thursday. Everything came together for a season-changing victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

The Ospreys wasted no time, as forward Carter Hendricksen knocked down a quick three just seconds after the opening tip. In Saturday’s loss to Lipscomb, Hendricksen recorded a career-high of 26 points. In what can only be described as incredible, he did this again on Thursday, with a new career-high of 27 points.

The Ospreys continued to build a lead throughout the opening minutes of the first half. As time passed, this lead didn’t go anywhere. Those around the ASUN took notice, as Jacksonville State (JSU) was given a 91 percent chance to win, according to KenPom analytics. Surely a struggling UNF team wouldn’t do the unthinkable, right?

What made this strong start even more impressive was the 10-game win streak that the Gamecocks held going into Thursday’s contest. Their last loss took place on Dec. 18, 2021, against the Alabama Crimson Tide. JSU has clearly been the frontrunner in the ASUN this season, and many expected them to roll through a 5-17 UNF team.

This was not going to be the case. The Birds of Trey hatched an effective game plan, knocking in nine three-pointers in the first half. This stat, combined with an abundance of offensive rebounds on the shots they didn’t make, allowed the Ospreys to take a four-point lead into halftime.

While a four-point lead was more than could have been hoped for, it wasn’t indicative of how the game had gone to that point. UNF led by more, but a JSU run late in the first half tightened things up going into the second half.

The Ospreys came out of the break firing, fortifying the lead they had let the Gamecocks narrow. Three early three-pointers from Hendricksen and guard Jarius Hicklen propelled UNF to open the lead back up to double digits.

UNF continued to hold a sizable lead, but a powerful Gamecocks squad couldn’t be taken lightly. The Ospreys never let off the gas pedal, though, playing tight defense all the way through. JSU finally got their first three-pointer to fall with just under eight minutes left in the game. For comparison, UNF had already sunk 16 of these by then.

It was strong three-point shooting that made the difference, with UNF converting on 17 of their attempts from beyond the arc. Six of these were courtesy of Hendricksen, who secured a new career-high with a successful free throw late in the game.

Not far behind Hendricksen in scoring was teammate Jose Placer, who netted 25 points Thursday. He accounted for four of the 17 makes from three-point range for the Ospreys.

Frustration was abundant on the JSU bench in the closing minutes, as UNF continued to hold the line. As the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock, it was apparent that the Ospreys were actually going to do it. They were going to take down the best team in the league.

The Ospreys secured a 88-76 victory, their second of conference play. While this only moves the squad to 2-7 in the league, a win of this caliber can be just what the doctor ordered. The momentum and confidence that can come about as a result of beating a team like JSU are priceless.

UNF Head Coach Matthew Driscoll recognizes the significance that this win can have for his team. “Today was the greatest day we’ve had and the greatest opportunity we’ve had to go 1-0,” Driscoll said postgame

With by far the most momentum they’ve had all year, the Ospreys will have a chance to put their skills to the test as they face North Alabama on Saturday. The Lions are fresh off of a close loss to the Jacksonville Dolphins on Thursday, so they will be hungry for a bounce-back win. 

Saturday’s game against North Alabama starts at 4:30 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.


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