The Ospreys opened with three straight road games to begin conference play. North Florida (7-13, 2-1 ASUN) gets rewarded with three consecutive at the UNF Arena. This week’s games will be Kennesaw State (7-12, 1-2) on Thursday and Lipscomb (10-10, 2-1) on Saturday. The start times are at 7 p.m.
These two games will set the tone for not just the remainder of league play but UNF’s stretch of five games in 12 days. The Ospreys are the most experienced in regard to many games in a short amount of time. They’ve already done the five in 12 twice this season. Both games can be seen on ESPN3 and heard live on 1010XL.
KSU leads the nation in three-point shooting percentage at 44 percent with 132 makes. The clear majority of those are coming from Kendrick Ray and Nick Masterson. The Owls are efficient passers and will have more assists than turnovers 90 percent of the time. Like Eddie Payne at USC Upstate, you have to respect Kennesaw State because of their head coach Al Skinner, who has over 400 coaching wins.
Lipscomb is fourth coming into the week for threes made. Guard Nathan Moran is able to find any of his teammates, as he’s already over 300 career assists. LU is a top-five team nationally for free throws made and overall assists. This is easily the most surprising team in the ASUN. Josh Williams paired with Garrison Mathews is a dangerous combo. Throw in Eli Pepper and Rob Marberry, and Lipscomb is a true conference contender.
Kendrick Ray for Kennesaw State is a baller. His brother you may remember from his days at Villanova – Allen Ray. The Owls’ heartbeat is putting up 22 per game. And like Dallas Moore, Ray is always within striking distance of 30 points.
It hurt to see guard Josh Williams tear his ACL last season. He is a major reason as to why this Bisons squad can surprise lots of folks. Williams can score at all three levels. Who do the Ospreys use to defend him?
The Ospreys have looked sharpest when Chris Davenport comes off the bench, and UNF can stick with the usuals. They are Dallas Moore (#14), Aaron Bodager (12), Garrett Sams (11), Wajid Aminu (2) and Romelo Banks (33).
Kennesaw State will play seven to eight guys, unless the gap becomes like their last game versus Stetson. The Owls should roll out: Kendrick Ray (0), Nick Masterson (21), Kyle Clarke (11), Aubrey Williams (14) and Jordan Jones (2).
The Lipscomb Bisons are coming into this Jacksonville road trip having fallen to FGCU last Saturday. LU has: Nathan Moran (5), Josh Williams (2), Garrison Mathews (24), Eli Pepper (22) and Rob Marberry (0).
Kendrick Ray is truly spectacular. He’s one of the three best scorers in the conference, along with Dallas Moore and NJIT’s Damon Lynn. However, Aubrey Williams leads the Owls and the ASUN in rebounding. UNF’s Aminu and Banks need to keep Williams off the glass. He’s a better all-around player than USC Upstate’s Michael Buchanan, and that is saying a lot.
Lipscomb’s Garrison Mathews is super close to breaking into the top tier of ASUN players. Next year might be more realistic, but he shows conference first-team skills. His scoring, ability to drive and knack for getting to the charity stripe all stand out; and you better believe the Ospreys need to lock him down.
How UNF Can Win:
The Ospreys have taken eight straight over Kennesaw State in the UNF Arena. History is on their side. But the real number is 80. The winning team has reached that point total in 8 of the last 11 games.
North Florida has a tough test against Lipscomb. The Ospreys’ second most difficult ASUN road game will be in Nashville. The third-point arc is crucial Saturday. The Bisons have multiple really talented long-distance shooters.