Brawl breaks out in closing moments of UNF men’s basketball clash with Austin Peay

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.After a physical altercation broke out at the UNF men’s basketball game against Austin Peay State University on Saturday, the University of North Florida Athletics Department released the following statement on Twitter.

“It was a disappointing end to today’s men’s basketball game at Austin Peay. The safety and sportmanship within our athletic events is of the utmost importance. We will work together in cooperation with the ASUN Conference to determine the best response moving forward.”

The hard-fought game ended violently after the Ospreys committed a costly turnover down just one point in the closing seconds. With the win essentially in the bag, the Governors brought the ball back down the court with forward Cameron Copeland attempting a flashy dunk.

This unnecessary move was met with heavy contact from UNF forward Jonathan Aybar. The APSU squad did not appreciate this, effectively jumping the lone Osprey. As benches cleared, Aybar found himself surrounded and was put in a headlock by APSU’s Carlos Paez, who had been assisted by UNF staff earlier in the game after sustaining a cut.

Security became involved as the brawl migrated towards the stands, eventually placating the issue temporarily. After being restrained, Aybar was seen running to the door that leads to the locker room. This became a concern, as the opposing locker rooms are connected by that hallway, according to the game’s ESPN+ commentators.

Aybar was quickly followed by teammates and even APSU Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison, all sprinting in hopes of preventing further escalation. Adding to the saga is that this was the final game APSU men’s basketball will ever play in the Winfield Dunn Center, which is being replaced by the new F&M Bank Arena next season.

As for the game itself, the Governors entered on an 11-game losing streak. This was in stark contrast to a hot UNF squad, who had won four of their last five going into Saturday. While the Ospreys are in the hunt for better seeding for the ASUN tournament, APSU came into the game with nothing to lose.

The Govs had a strong first half, taking a 45-35 lead going into the break. This Ospreys squad is no stranger to comebacks, something they exhibited as they slowly chipped away at APSU as the second half progressed, largely thanks to some timely three-point shooting from guards Jose Placer and Chaz Lanier and forward Carter Hendricksen. 

The hard work began to materialize as UNF cut the deficit to just two points with roughly three minutes remaining. APSU didn’t go away quietly, though, stretching their lead back to four points. The Ospreys were able to work things back down to a one-point gap with thirteen seconds left.

This is where things took a turn for the worse.

Hendricksen worked his way around the perimeter, appearing to take a shot to the face. No foul was called and the Govs were able to force a steal. This led to the infamous dunk attempt by Copeland, setting off the aforementioned chain of events.

After the court was cleared, officials decided that Aybar had committed a foul and APSU was awarded free throws. A miss and a make led to a 73-71 win for the Govs in what has to be one of the craziest ways to close out their time at the Dunn Center.

Team huddles together following a game
While the result on the scoreboard wasn’t desired, there were much larger causes for concern following the game Saturday. (Justin Nedrow)

It’s hard to believe that suspensions – or some form of punishment – won’t follow. This would have little to no impact on the rest of APSU’s 2023 campaign, but it could be detrimental for UNF if any were to come their way.

The ASUN conference standings as of Monday, February 20. Image courtesy of

The Ospreys currently sit eighth in the conference standings. Only the top 10 teams qualify, and with Jacksonville on the outside looking in, UNF will need a good upcoming week to ensure they get to go to the party.

UNF has two games remaining – both at home – against Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday and Bellarmine on Friday. Depending on JU and FGCU’s fortunes, wins could be necessary for the Ospreys to punch their ticket to postseason play.

The ASUN Conference has not released a statement regarding the incident at the time of the publication. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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