North Florida is hoping history repeats itself in the 2014 version of the Atlantic Sun Conference Basketball Tournament.
The Ospreys are the No. 6 seed and will be at No. 3 South Carolina Upstate Tuesday. North Florida has struggled against the Spartans, having dropped a pair of 11-point games to Upstate, including one at the UNF Arena just 12 days ago.
But coming in as the No. 6 seed is not always a bad thing.
Three of the last four No. 6 seeds in this tournament have advanced to the championship game, including UNF in 2011. The last time UNF was a 6th seed, the Ospreys beat Jacksonville 68-64 (2011).
North Florida is on an 8-day road trip, having played at Mercer last Thursday, followed by a Saturday game at Kennesaw State and then on to Spartanburg, S.C. the following day.
UNF won at Mercer, snapping a 14-game home court winning streak for the Bears and costing them the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
“We’ve played well on the road,” UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said. “We’ve played and won at some tough venues [Arkansas Little Rock and Savannah State] outside the conference and gained valuable experience in playing at places like Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana and Alabama.
“This is a resilient bunch. As these guys have said, they’re hot, healthy and hungry.”
North Florida has seven players averaging between six and 12½ points a game, including all five starters. Compare that to Upstate’s formidable standouts Torrey Craig and Ricardo Glenn. Craig leads the league in scoring (16.9) and could become the second A-Sun player to do that for three consecutive years. Glenn is at 13.2 points a contest (16.3 in his last 12 games). He leads the conference in rebounding average at 8.0.
Upstate won both games by double digits this season, but Driscoll said two categories stand out.
“It’s kind of hard to win when you have 29 turnovers and your opponent has 18 and you shoot 39 percent and the other team is 48 percent from the field,” he said. “Rebounding, free throw and 3-point shooting were all even but the glaring differences were they made 14 more field goals and we had so many turnovers.”
In both games, the Spartans used either a five or a six-minute spurt to outscore UNF by 10 and 11 points respectively. Without those two runs, the two teams played even.
“That’s been our biggest struggle this year,” Driscoll said.