As NCAA teams across the country wrap up their regular season, the Atlantic Sun conference has already kicked off its postseason. The ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship tournament started off with a pair of first round matchups Monday.
The #9 Queens University of Charlotte Royals defeated the #10 Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles 61-55, and the #8 Bellarmine Knights stunned the #7 North Florida Ospreys in a 76-74 thriller.
Having advanced from the play-in round of the tournament, the Knights and Ospreys will take right back to the court tonight. Both squads have their work cut out for them, as they will face the top 2 seeds in the tournament. Queens will battle No. 1 Kennesaw State, while Bellarmine must take on No. 2 Liberty.
Rounding out the quarterfinals, the No. 4 Stetson Hatters will face the No. 5 Lipscomb Bisons and the No. 3 Eastern Kentucky Colonels will host the No. 6 North Alabama Lions. Tonight’s four winners advance to the ASUN Semifinals, which take place this Thursday.
ASUN Tourney Starts Off With A Bang
Bellarmine’s matchup with North Florida featured a tightly-contested back-and-forth.
The Knights jumped out to a 35-29 lead with 3:48 left in the first half, but the Ospreys remained unfazed. They responded with a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead at 38-35 by halftime. Bellarmine took control once again after the break, leading North Florida for the majority of the second half. However, the Ospreys refused to go away, with their deficit never surpassing six points.
With just 55 seconds remaining, the Knights led 71-66. North Florida’s Chaz Lanier then proceeded to knock down a three to cut the lead to three points with 42 seconds left. Following a North Florida foul on the subsequent possession, Peter Suder made a pair of free throws to extend Bellarmine’s lead back to 73-69. But it did not stay there for long.
Carter Hendrickson drilled a three of his own for the Ospreys six seconds later to make it a one-point game.
North Florida immediately fouled on the next play, sending Garrett Tipton to the line for Bellarmine. He knocked down the first free throw, but missed the second one.
Hendrickson capitalized on the miss, throwing down a dunk on the other end to tie up the game with nine seconds left. While the Ospreys prepared to send the game to overtime, Bellarmine’s Juston Betz had other plans.
Betz charged down the court and pulled up right outside the paint. Backing down a North Florida defender, he swiftly turned around, stepped back and pulled the trigger on a mid-range jumper.
The ball took one bounce off the rim before sinking through the net with 0.4 seconds left. The Knights then swatted away a last-second Hail Mary pass from the Ospreys, clinching their upset victory.
Ben Johnson led the way for the Knights off the bench with 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Jarius Hicklen also finished with an impressive night for the Ospreys despite the loss, finishing with 25 points and three assists. Despite both Johnson and Hicklen’s impressive performances, however, Betz’s game-winner proved to be the highlight of the night.
More Action On The Way
Meanwhile, Queens had their work cut out for them against FGCU. With multiple lead changes in the first half, neither team led by more than five points in the first 20 minutes. However, the Royals eventually managed to take control in the second half.
BJ McLaurin nailed a pair of free throws to give the Royals a 46-45 lead with 11:02 left in the second half, and they never looked back from there.
Interestingly enough, Queens managed to secure the win despite an abysmal performance from the field. The Royals only shot 30.5% on the night in comparison to the Eagles’ 37.7%. They made up for their spotty shooting with a strong night on the boards and at the free throw line, though.
Queens went 17-for-23 at the line while grabbing 43 rebounds. FGCU only managed to knock down five of their nine free throws while collecting 29 rebounds.
All five starters scored in double-digits for the Royals, combining for 57 of the team’s 61 points. McLaurin and Kenny Dye led the way with 12 points each. Jay’Den Turner also turned in a fantastic outing for Queens, racking up 11 points and 18 rebounds.
FGCU’s Chase Johnston did everything he could to keep his squad alive, scoring 24 of the Eagles’ 55 points, but the Royals kept the rest of the Eagles contained as no other player scored in double-digits.
While the Knights and Royals may be the two lowest-remaining seeds in the ASUN tournament, they proved two things true Monday night: They are must-see TV, and they will not be going down without a fight.