JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Kennesaw State men's basketball team enjoyed three double-figure scoring performances during its Atlantic Sun Conference opener, but couldn't stop North Florida's strong paint presence as the Owls fell to the Ospreys, 85-60.
Nate Rucker put in a career-high 18 points to lead KSU while Orlando Coleman added in 13 and Nigel Pruitt was good for 10 as the Owls drop to 3-11 on the year and 0-1 in the young A-Sun season. UNF bumps its record to .500 at 7-7 while moving to 1-0 in the league standings with the win.
"Our defense gave up too many points in transition," Kennesaw State head coach Lewis Preston said. "That led to UNF putting in 48 points on us in the paint. Then we individually tried to put too much on our shoulders as opposed to taking it one possession at a time."
UNF took the opening tip of the contest and made it a two-possession game after scoring the first two baskets of the night. KSU junior guard Delbert Love put the Owls on the board with the floater to make it 4-2 Ospreys before UNF rattled off five straight to go up by seven three minutes in.
The Owls then answered with five consecutive points of their own with Rucker putting in three of those to set the score at 9-7 UNF. The Ospreys were then the first team to hit the 20-point mark as they took the 21-15 lead with just under nine to go in the first as KSU went on the nearly three minute long drought from the field.
Senior Kris Drees got the offense going once again as he connected on the layup off of the Bernard Morena assist, cutting the UNF lead back down to seven with 6:32 to go in the half. A 7-2 run from the home team to end the first would send the game into the break with a 34-23 score in favor of the Ospreys.
The two teams played to a fairly even first five minutes of the second half, KSU capitalizing on a Coleman three-pointer and a Willy Kouassi jumper to make it 44-31 UNF with 15 to go in regulation.
As UNF extended its lead to 47-31 with 13 minutes to go, Coleman again put in three more, this time on the dunk followed by the free throw to cut it down to a 13 point deficit. KSU then responded to the Osprey jumper with a triple from Pruitt to keep the Owls in the ballgame.
Rucker then connected on back-to-back jumpers, slicing the UNF lead to 12 points with under nine to play, but the Ospreys responded as Beau Beach put in two baskets of his own as the Ospreys went on win the A-Sun opener, 85-60.
Coleman fell just two rebounds shy of the double-double as he led KSU on the boards with his eight rebounds while Rucker finished up with six to go with his three steals and a block.
As a team, KSU picked up 13 offensive rebounds, turning those into 20 second chance points while also putting in 15 points off of 14 UNF turnovers.
The team will stay put in Jacksonville, Fla. for a New Year's Day contest at Jacksonville University. Game time is set for 7 p.m. ET between the Owls and the Dolphins in historic Swisher Gymnasium.