Men’s basketball jumps out to early lead, defeats JU in River City Rumble opener

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The University of North Florida Ospreys came out on top in Thursday’s crosstown showdown, taking down the Jacksonville University Dolphins 76-63.

This matchup was the start of a busy weekend for both squads, who will face each other yet again on Saturday, this time at UNF Arena. The Ospreys were led by guard Jose Placer, who knocked down seven three-pointers en route to a 30-point evening.

The game got off to an unbelievably favorable start for UNF, who dominated the first half. Vengeance was clearly on the Ospreys’ minds, who were looking to right last year’s blowout loss to the Dolphins at Swisher Gymnasium.

Matthew Driscoll gives instruction from the sideline
The Ospreys put last year’s loss to rest on Thursday, avenging a 71-39 defeat in 2022. (Justin Nedrow)

A 19-4 run that began midway through the first half opened UNF’s lead up to 21 points. JU had a few minutes to hit back before halftime, but couldn’t get anything going as the Ospreys took a 43-22 lead going into the break.

While this was a great spot to be in, was it too good to be true? 

The answer was a resounding yes. The Dolphins quickly reminded their visitors of the talent they possess, closing the gap to just three points with 12 minutes remaining. The Ospreys had a completely new ballgame on their hands.

A pair of Placer three-pointers around the 10-minute mark helped get UNF back on track, pushing their lead back to double digits. What followed next was over three minutes of scoreless play, something JU couldn’t afford as the clock continued to wind down.

JU guard Jordan Davis got the lead down to seven points, but this was the closest the Dolphins would get for the rest of the night. From here on out, the Ospreys did what they needed to do, hitting free throws and locking down the JU attack to secure a 13-point win.

A key factor in UNF’s win was the turnover battle. While this has plagued the Ospreys at times in recent memory, they only coughed up the ball four times on Thursday as opposed to JU’s nine.

Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night was the dominance that UNF exuded throughout the game. The Ospreys grabbed the lead early and never relinquished, with the Dolphins fighting from behind just seconds into the game.

Following last year’s sweep by JU, the wounds had been stinging for nearly a year. The Ospreys were not scared to give it another go at Swisher, something that head coach Matthew Driscoll alluded to postgame.

“Confidence is looking someone in the eye,” Driscoll said. “I thought we played with amazing knowledge and understanding of what we’re trying to do and it looked like it.”

As mentioned, UNF will have a chance to give JU a taste of its own medicine, as a win on Saturday would secure a sweep of the Dolphins. This showdown, which starts at 5 p.m., caps off Homecoming Week festivities on campus. The Ospreys can end things on a happy note, sending the Dolphins back across town and reestablishing their rule over the River City.


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