North Florida (15-18) vs. Belmont (29-4)
Saturday, March 5th, 6:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Center (3,500) -- Macon, Georgia. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: North Florida 4-7, Belmont 12-0. Away Record: North Florida 7-11, Belmont 13-4. Neutral Record: North Florida 4-0, Belmont 4-0. Conference Record: North Florida 10-10, Belmont 19-1. Series Record: Belmont leads, 10-1.
GAME NOTES: A berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament is on the line today in Macon, as the North Florida Ospreys and Belmont Bruins compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference title game.
North Florida has defied the odds and reached this championship round as the sixth seed. After defeating third-seeded Jacksonville in the quarterfinals by a 68-64 margin, the Ospreys knocked off second-seeded East Tennessee State last night by a 59-55 final. They are now 15-18 overall this season and are gunning for their first A-Sun Tournament title in just their second year of eligibility in the conference.
Belmont was expected to be in this title tilt, as it is the tournament's top seed. The Bruins have won this event three times, more than any other active league member, and their most recent crown was captured in 2008. Belmont is 29-4 overall and beat both eighth-seeded Kennesaw State (72-57) and fifth- seeded Mercer (80-72) to reach today's showdown.
The Bruins won both of their regular season meetings with North Florida to increase their all-time series lead over the Ospreys to 10-1.
In yesterday's win over East Tennessee State, North Florida's David Jeune posted his second career double-double, as he scored 13 points and ripped down 11 rebounds. Jeune was efficient with his shooting, as he knocked down 4-of-5 field goal attempts and 5-of-6 free throws. Parker Smith also had 13 points off the bench, while Andy Diaz (11 points) and Jerron Granberry (10 points) reached double figures as well. The Ospreys did turn the ball over 16 times and were outrebounded by a 34-30 margin, but they limited ETSU to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor. Overall this season, Smith is the team's leading scorer with 12.3 ppg, while Granberry is close behind with his 12.2 ppg. Still, both players are shooting well under 40 percent from the floor, and Granberry's 34 percent efficiency is downright embarrassing. Diaz adds 10.8 ppg for the Ospreys, who are generating 65.5 ppg while allowing 71.0 ppg to foes.
Jordan Campbell scored 17 points in a reserve role for Belmont in yesterday's victory over Mercer. Kerron Johnson added 14 points in 18 minutes of action, and Mick Hedgepeth had 11 points. As for Ian Clark, he scored 10 points for the Bruins, who scored 28 points from the foul line in that affair and earned a 35-27 rebounding advantage. They committed 16 turnovers but overcame the mistakes with solid play in all other aspects of the game. Overall this season, Clark is scoring 12.5 ppg to pace his team, and he is shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range to go along with 42 steals. As for Hedgepeth, he provides 10.3 ppg on the strength of his 52.9 percent field goal efficiency, and his 5.9 rpg pace the club. Hedgepeth's production is all the more impressive when considering the fact that he logs fewer than 22 minutes of action per outing.
North Florida has won its last five games dating back to the regular season and won't be intimidated by Belmont, especially considering the last meeting between these teams was decided by only two points. Still, the edge has to go to the Bruins.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 71, North Florida 66
03/05 10:40:49 ET