The UNF men’s basketball team has defeated the perceived top two threats for a conference title. Now, all they have to do is play each of them a possible two more times — one more regular season meeting and a possible A-Sun tournament showdown.
They stand alone with a conference record of 5-0, a six-game winning streak and are coming off a three-game road trip. Last Saturday, they went into Lipscomb, who had not lost in the conference, and won 75-66. The first half marked one of worst offensive showings of the season for UNF, shooting at just 25 percent from the floor and going into the half down 29-19.
The second half was one of the most impressive showings, with the Ospreys dropping a tremendous 56 points. They used a 20-3 run to start the half, and Beau Beech connected for six second-half threes on his way to a season high of 27 points.
“Lipscomb definitely played with more energy during the first half,” said coach Matthew Driscoll. “To be able to respond with 56 points after scoring just 19 in the first half says a lot about the kind of players we have on our team.”
Their convincing wins over Lipscomb and Florida Gulf Coast University, the other two favorites to compete for the Atlantic Sun title, shows a lot of promise for the UNF team. A couple weeks ago, the Ospreys knocked out FGCU by 16 at the UNF arena. They still have to go on the road to play FGCU, and Lipscomb was without a couple of shooters on Saturday, but UNF is off to its best conference start in school history. Each of their wins over these teams came overcoming a 10-plus point difference.
Beech, a junior from Ponte Vedra High, has been named A-Sun player of the week for his performance Saturday and Thursday in a win over Northern Kentucky. This is the second-straight week an Osprey has been the player of the week. Dallas Moore, the team’s leading scorer and assist leader, won it last week.
Gaining the number one seed and winning the regular season conference title, is more important in the Atlantic Sun than any other conference. It is the only postseason tournament in which every game taking place in the home arena for the higher seed of the matchup (and not a neutral site). If the Ospreys continue this route, they could host every game in the tournament that they play. This will be a giant factor as they try and claim their first birth into the NCAA Tournament, which two early rounds will take place in town at the Veterans Memorial Arena March 19 and 21.
The Ospreys will host a three game home stand starting this Thursday and ending Friday, February 6, with another match in the River City Rumble against JU, who is having a down year due to rebuilding.