KENNESAW, Ga. -- Playing off a passionate home crowd, the Kennesaw State men's basketball team jumped out to an early lead, but was unable sustain that energy for a full 40 minutes and fell 60-52 to visiting North Florida in an Atlantic Sun Conference game before a crowd of 2,148 at the KSU Convocation Center on Thursday.
The Owls (2-21, 1-10) took a 9-0 lead to open the game before the Ospreys (10-15, 5-7) responded with a 20-3 run over a seven-minute span to build a 20-12 advantage with 7:39 remaining in the first half and were able to maintain the lead the rest of the game.
The loss overshadowed an electric atmosphere as both end zones of the KSU Convocation Center were filled to capacity by members of Kennesaw State fraternities and sororities who took part in the annual Greek Night.
"First of all, I want to thank Greek Life, all the fraternities and sororities that participated tonight. The energy was phenomenal," head coach Lewis Preston said. "Vaughn (Williams) (Kennesaw State Director of Athletics) and I had gone around and seen the different fraternities and sororities. I knew they were going to come with energy and passion. I did not know that they were going to come with that much energy and passion.
"And I will tell you, I think that was one of the best atmospheres I've been in here since I've been head coach here," Preston added. "The only thing that would rival it was last here when Mercer came here. It was a great atmosphere. I thought the students were engaged, they were in it the whole time. I really want to thank them for coming out in droves like they did tonight."
The Owls were led by senior forwards Markeith Cummings (Birmingham, Ala. / Beach HS), and Aaron Anderson (Tucson, Ariz. / Central Arizona College). Cummings, who entered the game tied for first in the A-Sun Conference with North Florida's Parker Smith at 17.0 points a game, matched his season average. Anderson, who scored eight points to go over 700 for his career (701), registered a game-high 12 rebounds, recording his fifth straight double-digit rebounding game and 10th of the season.
Smith led North Florida with 14 points while junior forward Travis Wallace contributed 13 for the Ospreys.
Kennesaw State, which committed 11 first-half turnovers trailed 29-22 at halftime, remained in striking distance throughout the second half, staying within single digits of North Florida and cut the deficit to 44-40 following a three-pointer by Cummings with 9:14 remaining. However, the Owls were never able come all the way back as the Ospreys answered any run and used a 32-18 scoring advantage in the paint to post the win.
Despite making one more field, posting a higher shooting percentage and making three more three-points than North Florida, Kennesaw State came up on the short as a result of the Opsreys going 16-for-23 from the foul line while the Owls were just 3-of-7 from the charity stripe.
Kennesaw State returns to action on Saturday when it hosts Jacksonville at the KSU Convocation Center beginning at 2:30 p.m.
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