@OspreyMBB Falls to Florida in First Round of NIT

@OspreyMBB Falls to Florida in First Round of NIT

JACKSONVILLE -- North Florida fell victim to some torrid 3-point shooting in the first half by visiting Florida as the Ospreys saw their 2015-16 season come to an end with a 97-68 loss to the Gators Tuesday night in a first round NIT game in front of a packed house at the UNF Arena.

The Ospreys finished with a 22-12 overall mark, including a program-best 14-3 at home. Two of the three home losses came in UNF's final two home games. UNF did win an undisputed Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season title for the second year in a row and participated in its second postseason tournament in as many years.

Florida shot lights out from beyond the arc in the opening half, hitting on 12-of-18 shots from that distance. The shots weren't falling for the Ospreys from that range as they managed just four long-range baskets in 14 attempts. The assist-to-turnover ratio was also heavy in Florida's favor. They had 13 assists and only 4 turnovers while UNF was just about the complete opposite with 5 assists and 13 turnovers. The turnovers led to another one-sided Florida advantage of 21-3 in points off miscues.

"Do you want me to write the headline for you," UNF coach Matthew Driscoll asked reporters afterwards. "Florida Gators beat us at our own game. They made more three-pointers tonight than they did in their two games combined at the SEC Tournament. It's almost like the basket got so big for them.

"But still, what a great season, what a great crowd out there tonight. Give our administration a great job for turning things over really quick and getting 6,000 people in here tonight. It's still back-to-back 20-win seasons, back-to-back championships. We can't let these last two home games deter what these guys have accomplished and how great this team is."

The crowd was announced as 6,011 which is the second largest in UNF history, topped only by the 6,155 on hand for the 2015 Atlantic Sun championship game in which UNF defeated USC Upstate to earn its first trip ever to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Even down by one of its largest halftime deficits ever, UNF didn't throw in the towel in the second half. The Ospreys played much better after intermission and finished with a 43-40 scoring advantage in the second half. UNF actually outscored Florida 42-30 late into the game until the Gators finished on a 10-1 run to close out the game. The Ospreys also stopped turning the ball over as frequently in the second half. They had but eight turnovers in the final 20 minutes, limiting the Gators to just seven points off those miscues.

"We just had too many bad passes by our guys," Driscoll said. "We were throwing passes that we shouldn't have. That's really surprising because we're one of the best assist-to-turnover teams in the league. Part of that is due to when you get down, you try to throw some home runs. We just have to do a better job at that."

The long-range shooting for the two teams also took on a new look.  Florida struggled behind the arc, hitting on just 4-of-14 shots in the second half while UNF improved to 5-of-11 from that distance.

At one point in the second half, North Florida had shaved 14 points off its 32-point halftime deficit. WhenChris Davenport dropped in a pair of free throws at 6:27 mark, it cut Florida's lead to 18 points at 75-57. It was still a 20-point game with a couple minutes remaining before Florida drilled two shots from long range and scored nine of the game's final 10 points for the 29-point final margin.

Dallas Moore finished his junior season with a 23-point effort on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, all five free throw attempts, a team-high seven rebounds and five assists. Moore said it wasn't a case of the Ospreys being nervous playing a team from one of the five Power Conferences.

"This isn't the first time we've played a Power-5 team," he said. "I don't think nerves had anything to do with it. They came out and hit those threes and had 36 points off just their 3-point shooting. We came back and fought hard in the second half. At one point I think we had eight stops in a row."

It was the final game for seniors Beau BeechTrent Mackey and Demarcus Daniels, three players who have played in all 34 games for the Ospreys this season. Beech finished with 13 points and had 6 rebounds, Mackey had nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from long range and Daniels finished with 2 points and 5 rebounds. Chris Davenport was the only other UNF player in double figures, finishing with 14 points.

Florida placed six players in double figures, led by Dorian Finney-Smith's 15 points. The Gators advanced to the second round of the NIT and will play at Ohio State on Sunday.