NEWARK, N.J. - The Birds of Trey lived up to their name on Monday night, as No. 5 North Florida knocked down 10 threepointers en route to an 80-76 victory over No. 4 NJIT. Garrett Sams led the way for the Ospreys, as he poured in a career-high 28 points. Noah Horchler and Trip Day also posted double figures with 12 a piece. North Florida will now face No. 1 FGCU in the ASUN Championship Semifinals on Thursday night.
The three-ball was the name of the game for North Florida in the first half, as they went 6-12 from distance in the games' opening stanza. Sams poured in half of his 28 points in the first period, going 5-7 from the field and 4-5 from long range. He really got the Ospreys going, scoring eight points in North Florida's game-opening 13-0 run. North Florida also locked up defensively in the first half, holding NJIT to just 5-29 from the field for the half for a mere 17 percent. The Ospreys carried a 39-19 lead into the locker room.
The way the second half started, it seemed as if we were in for a repeat of the first, but the Highlanders wouldn't go quietly. Once down 26 in the second half, NJIT roared back to cut the deficit to one with under a minute to play after Donovan Greer banked in a three with 19.0 seconds left. Sams answered the bell time and time again from the free throw line, as he came in clutch draining 12-13 free throws in the second half to keep NJIT at bay. North Florida finished 26-33 from the charity stripe and 10-21 from long range.
The victory clinched a fourth-straight victory in the ASUN Quarterfinals and also snapped a four-game road losing streak in the ASUN Championship. The Ospreys will now turn their attention to in-state rival and top-seeded FGCU, who they will face in Fort Myers on Thursday, March 1st.
In the loss, San Antonio Brinson put in a team-high 15 points and nine rebounds. Greer, Shyquan Gibbs, Anthony Tarke and Zach Cooks all tallied double-figures for the Highlanders.
No. 4 NJIT vs. No. 5 North Florida Quarterfinal Notes
- North Florida makes their fourth-straight appearance in the ASUN Semifinals
- UNF fell to FGCU in the ASUN Championship last season, and has been ousted by the Eagles the last two seasons
- Garrett Sams scored a career-high 28 points for the Ospreys. It marked his sixth career 20-point game, fourth of this season alone
- Brinson's 15 points marked a career-high, after averaging just 2.0 PPG for the season
- North Florida now looks for their first-ever ASUN Championship win over FGCU