- Hindered by poor shooting and inconsistent defense, the North Florida basketball team opened their three game home stand with a tough 66-47 loss Thursday night to Mercer at UNF Arena.
The Ospreys (7-11, 2-3 ASun) made 10 three-pointers in the game but shot just 34 percent from the floor while the Bears (10-7, 3-1) connected at a 51 percent clip scoring 33 points off turnovers and with second chances.
Mercer's defense limited UNF's top two scorers Parker Smith
and Travis Wallace
to six and eight points, respectively. Facing double and triple teams all evening, Smith attempted just four shots making a pair of threes while Wallace finished the game 3-of-11.
Freshman Ray Rodriguez
recorded a career high 11 points highlighted by hitting three consecutive treys in a span of 65 seconds midway through the second half. Senior Andy Diaz
joined elite company becoming just the eighth player in UNF history with 1,000 points after scoring five in the contest.
Four Mercer players reached double digits led by 15 from Travis Smith.
"The key to our success is getting defensive stops and we just didn't do it consistently tonight," said UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll
. "Give Mercer credit for guarding Parker like they did and forcing others to step up. I thought we had some really good opportunities for some guys to make shots that they normally make but they just weren't falling tonight. Against good teams like Mercer we have to be able to execute and finish plays. The bottom line is we just didn't get enough stops defensively. We have a quick turnaround and have to make the adjustments necessary moving forward."
Mercer scored the first six points of the game only to see the Ospreys answer with eight straight of their own over the opening five minutes. The Bears pushed back behind a 16-2 run to open up a double digit advantage, 22-10, with just over six minutes left in the first half.
The teams went back and forth the rest of the period as Mercer carried a 32-20 lead into the halftime break. The 20 points were the fewest for the Ospreys this season in an opening half.
Defense continued to dominate the play early in the second half as the margin remained the same through the first 10 minutes. The two squads would combine to score just 17 points before the second media timeout of the period.
Trailing by 14, 43-29, the Ospreys got a spark from their freshman as a lineup featuring four first-year players trimmed the deficit to six (47-41) with 9:29 remaining. Rodriguez sparked the rally with his back-to-back-to-back treys and fellow freshman Beau Beech
added a fourth in the surge.
From their, Mercer pushed back closing the game on a 19-6 run including scoring eight of the final nine points of the contest.
North Florida continues its current home stand Saturday against Kennesaw State at 4:30 p.m. The Owls visit UNF Arena after dropping a heartbreaking 99-92 triple overtime decision at Jacksonville on Thursday night.