The first night of the Atlantic Sun Tournament saw plenty of action, with a pair of thrillers and a huge night from North Florida star Dallas Moore. By the end of the night, Florida Gulf Coast advanced to face Kennesaw State in the semifinals and North Florida earned a date with Lipscomb.
Kennesaw State 80, USC Upstate 78
The Owls had to hit the road to take on USC Upstate in the 4-5 matchup, and found themselves in a dogfight, trailing by two at halftime.
Sharpshooter Nick Masterson scored six points during a Kennesaw State 8-0 run early in the second half to give the Owls a 41-37 lead, and the visitors held onto the lead for most of the second half, until Michael Buchanan’s layup gave the Spartans a 73-72 lead with 2:36 remaining.
Aubrey Williams converted a layup to give the lead back to the Owls and they never gave it up from there.
Tyler Hooker missed both free throws that would have sealed the victory for Kennesaw State with eight seconds remaining, and on the second miss, the Spartans rushed the ball up the court and got Buchanan a good look in the paint to send the game into overtime, but his shot glanced off the front of the rim.
Kendrick Ray scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, and Masterson pitched in 18. The Owls will hit the road again to take on top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals.
North Florida 77, Jacksonville 74
In the third meeting of the season between the crosstown rivals, Dallas Moore stole the show with 18 first-half points, but the Ospreys only led by one at the break.
UNF then jumped ahead by as many as 13 in the first eight minutes of the second half, but the Dolphins, led by Marcel White would not go away easily.
White scored 18 points in a seven-minute span to help bring Jacksonville from 13 down to within three at the 5:02 mark.
In the final minute of play, Dolphin guard Darien Fernandez had a chance to tie the game at 72 at the foul line, but missed the second free throw.
On the ensuing possession, the Ospreys worked the ball into the corner into the hands of freshman Garrett Sams, and his three-pointer stretched the lead to 75-71.
Fernandez came back down and drilled a long three to make it a one point game, but Sams was fouled and converted both shots at the charity stripe to bring it to a 77-74 final. North Florida will travel to second-seeded Lipscomb for the semifinals.
Florida Gulf Coast 87, Stetson 57
A well-rounded effort from Florida Gulf Coast’s familiar cast of last season’s NCAA Tournament club helped the Eagles into the semifinals.
Zach Johnson, coming off a 24-point performance against the Hatters in the season finale last week, continued his fine shooting from the perimeter with four threes and a game-high 19 points on Monday night.
Marc-Eddy Norelia, who has had anything but a standard season with injuries and a personal absence from the team in the middle of the season, had his strongest performance in weeks with 12 points and 15 rebounds, and Christian Terrell, who went 0-10 from the three-point line in the last meeting with the Hatters, connected on three of his first four tries.
The Eagles got a late scare in the final minutes when Atlantic Sun Newcomer of the Year and leading scorer Brandon Goodwin suffered a hard fall after delivering an assist for a Johnson three.
Goodwin was down on the floor for a while, but got to his feet and walked off the floor. His diagnosis is a bruised hip and head coach Joe Dooley believes his point guard will be fine for Thursday’s semifinal.
Lipscomb 97, NJIT 66
The second-seeded Bison needed less than eight minutes to run out to a 29-7 lead over the injury-riddled Highlanders, and first-team all-conference selection Garrison Mathews was at the forefront of the attack, pouring in a game-high 30 points.
The Bison shot a blistering 61 percent on the evening, and hit on 10-24 from the three-point line.
Eli Pepper and Rob Marberry each added 14 points for Lipscomb, while Anthony Tarke led the Highlanders with 21.