The first night of the ASUN Tournament provided its fair share of excitement. Top-seeded FGCU and Lipscomb both struggled early against lower-tier opponents. For a little while it seemed very possible that both a No. 7 and No. 8 seed could pull off upsets on the first night of conference tournaments. However, FGCU and Lipscomb each opened up a big lead to finish out their games strong, and advanced to the semifinals of the ASUN tournament. Elsewhere, Jacksonville rolled over Kennesaw State and North Florida hung on by the skin of its teeth to take down NJIT on the road.
(3) Jacksonville 87, (6) Kennesaw State 68
In one of the less-exciting games of Thursday night, the Jacksonville Dolphins led wire-to-wire in a victory over Kennesaw State. This marked their first ASUN tournament victory since 2010.
Jace Hogan led the way for JU, scoring a season-high 39 points on 17-of-25 shooting, along with eight rebounds. Coming off the bench, Jalyn Hinton added in 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting.
The Dolphins were able to roll all over the Owls, without their star freshman JD Notae, who is out for the year with a foot injury. The Dolphins are not exactly a team that has a lot of depth; they played only seven men in last night’s victory. If they want to upset Lipscomb on Thursday, JU will need another strong game from Hogan and Hinton.
(1) Florida Gulf Coast 96, (8) USC Upstate 76
This game was back-and-forth for a lot longer than most FGCU fans would have hoped. The Spartans caught the Eagles on a night where two-time ASUN POY Brandon Goodwin had a bad game. On top of that, Upstate shot the lights out from three in the first half, and in the beginning of the second half.
However, Zach Johnson was there to pick up the slack for the Eagles, scoring 26 points, and floor general Christian Terrell had 18 points along with eight assists and six rebounds.
One of the turning points of the game came with just over 13 minutes to play in the second half. Mike Cunningham of USC Upstate hit a three to make it a 58-54 game, and received a technical foul for making some kind of gesture towards a fan in the crowd that had been heckling him. Then Upstate coach Kyle Perry got T’d up as well, for getting in an altercation with the official while defending his player. FGCU hit all four technical free throws, and ended up running away with the game.
According to J Webb Horton, the color commentator of FGCU’s ESPN3 broadcasts, that same fan had been trash-talking the opponents in the Eagles’ last home game. That may be something to watch for during Thursday night’s game at Alico Arena.
(5) North Florida 80, (4) NJIT 76
NJIT at one point trailed in this game by 26 points. They ended up trimming the deficit all the way to one, but UNF ended up holding on for the victory.
In the waning moments of an unbelievable comeback, NJIT fouled UNF, and had the player they wanted on the free throw line. Noah Horchler, who was 2-for-5 on the night from the line had two free throws with 17 seconds to play and a one-point lead. He hit the first and missed the second, but NJIT never had a chance to tie the game because Garrett Sams ripped the ball out of Donovan Greer’s hand to corral the game-sealing offensive rebound.
This marks the third-straight season, the Highlanders have lost their opening round game in the ASUN Tournament. UNF’s win also makes it the fourth time in the last six years that the Ospreys will face off against FGCU in the ASUN Tournament. Each time they’ve played, FGCU has bested the Ospreys en route to an NCAA Tournament bid. Matthew Driscoll’s squad will look to change that on Thursday night.
(2) Lipscomb 89, (7) Stetson 73
Similar to FGCU, Lipscomb fans were a bit nervous while watching the first half of this one. Stetson stayed in it, and even took the lead at one point, before the Bisons took control of the game.
Garrison Mathews has been the go-to-guy all season for the Bisons, and last night was no exception. Mathews finished with 29 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Matt Rose provided a nice spark from off the bench, adding 15 points on five made three pointers.
The Bisons need to make sure not to look to far in advance, and worry about a possible rematch with FGCU on Sunday. First, they need to take care of business against a tenacious Jacksonville team on Thursday night.
How to Watch the Semifinals (Thursday 3/1):
(1) FGCU vs. (5) North Florida — 7 PM EST — WatchESPN/ESPN3
(2) Lipscomb vs. (3) Jacksonville — 8 PM EST — WatchESPN/ESPN3