The Birds of Trey have seldom swooped quite like this.
North Florida bombarded the hoop from distance from start to finish, burying Edward Waters 101-78 beneath a 3-point avalanche in Tuesday’s men’s basketball home opener at UNF Arena.
The Ospreys converted 20 3-pointers, shooting 59 percent from 3-point range, and tied the school’s single-game record of 20 threes, set on Jan. 24, 2016 against NJIT.
After traveling to opponents like Michigan State, Michigan, VCU and Florida, a grueling stretch of six road games in 10 days, the Ospreys (1-6) didn’t pass up the chance to do what they do best in front of their hometown fans.
Head coach Matthew Driscoll’s biggest issue: He wants them to shoot from distance even more.
“Why force-feed anything that leads to a turnover?” Driscoll wondered. “All you’ve got to do is just beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, and once in a while, you get a bop… layups and dunks and wide-open threes, that’s what we should be getting.”
Garrett Sams, J.T. Escobar, Osborn Blount and new Atlantic Sun Conference player of the week Ivan Gandia-Rosa staked out their space beyond the arc and found their target again and again and again.
“I didn’t even know we made 20 threes until somebody said it with about 1:30 left in the game,” Gandia-Rosa said.
It’s the second time the Ospreys have scored more than 50 points from beyond the line this season, after they converted 17 threes in a 95-85 loss to VCU on Nov. 13.
The Ospreys began pulling away moments from the opening tip.
With little pressure, UNF’s Birds of Trey had enough time and space to build their own nest around the 3-point line in the first half.
UNF tallied 21 points, including five 3-pointers, before the first media timeout, converting some of the most wide-open shooting opportunities they’re likely to see all season.
Gandia-Rosa led with 19 points, Escobar scored 15 and Blount added 14 off the bench as six Ospreys reached double figures.
The Tigers, though, didn’t go down without a fight.
With UNF’s Wajid Aminu and Trip Day in early foul trouble, Edward Waters (2-6) took advantage of its interior size to cause the Ospreys problems in the paint.
Omar Banaga, a Lee High School graduate, led the Tigers (2-6) with 19 points.
Edward Waters outscored the undersized Ospreys 34-22 in the paint, a concern for Driscoll against the NAIA opponent.
“We just have to do a better job on the perimeter, making sure the ball doesn’t get past us,” he said.
“We’re never really satisfied,” Escobar said. “There’s always stuff to improve on.”
The series dominance continued for Ospreys, who have beaten the Tigers in 15 of 18 meetings and haven’t lost to Edward Waters since Nov. 17, 2001.
The stop at home doesn’t last long.
After Thanksgiving, the Ospreys return to the road to meet No. 11 Miami. But for this road trip, they’ll have a win under their belts.
“To get that first win of the season after having a tough stretch at the beginning, there’s definitely great things we can take away from it, the way we moved the ball and got the shots we wanted,” Escobar said.