MACON, GA. – UNF has survived the toughest of conference foes. The first day of play at the 2010 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Championship is no different. UNF entertained fans with one of the more stunning spectacles of day one, the No. 7 Osprey’s upset of the No. 2 Bears. The game marked the first time that a No. 7 team won a game during A-Sun tournament play.
The season stands as the inaugural postseason experience for the Ospreys since reclassifying to Div. I. Brittany Kirkland led a UNF army through the unchartered waters at the University Center on Wednesday. The Ospreys controlled the pace early in the game, holding the Bears scoreless for more than 6:30, in addition to 6-for-26 shooting and just 16 points before the half.
Kirkland, a Second-Team All-Conference performer, led all players with a game-high 25 points, including hitting 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. The sophomore teamed with junior post Juliemay Syquio to hold Mercer's pair of All-Conference performers in check. Senior guards Courtney Ford and LaToya Jackson struggled throughout the night, connecting on only 8-of-31 from the floor in combining for 23 points.
The Monroe, Ga. native put UNF’s first points on the board with a layup and helped open a 10-0 run against Mercer. Kirkland also stymied all hopes for a Mercer comeback in the final two minutes of the second half, as she started a 7-0 run to seal the win for UNF.
As UNF’s leading scorer, Kirkland has the responsibility of pacing the team, but she knows she has a lot of support from her team, friends and family.
“One of the things I was pushing on is that it’s a basketball game in a sense. I felt like it’s good for a No. 7 team to win and go on. But we want to go to the championships. I feel like when you think it’s more than what it is you get nervous or you tend to do stuff that’s outside of the box. I felt like it was another game. It was another game where I had to do my job. I had to keep my head on straight. I had to keep my teammates in the game, and we came out on top!”
Even in just her sophomore season of collegiate play, Kirkland has already made a strong impact on the court for the Ospreys.
“Coach says I have a lot of impact,” Kirkland said. “When my attitude is not at the level it needs to be, we tend not to do well. When my attitude is going well, I think that the team plays really well, so when we lose, I think it’s my fault. Coach always said when you step on the floor you should give your teammates your best effort. I knew I had to do that in order for us to go on.”
This strong work ethic propelled the sophomore guard to pick up All-Conference honors after starting in all of UNF’s 27 games. Kirkland leads the Ospreys and ranks fifth in the A-Sun in scoring with 14.6 points per game. In league games, the Monroe, Ga. native has tallied an average of 14.4 points per game, scoring in double digits on 22 occasions this season, including tallying 20 or more points on eight occasions.
The Ospreys have also exceeded preseason expectations during the season, beating league-favorite FGCU on Feb. 13. The squad strives for a strong defense in order to drive them to big wins.
“Defense is what we are,” Kirkland said. “I don’t think anybody in the conference plays defense as well as we do. That works to our advantage really, really well. You’re shot is not always going to fall but if you can play defense you’ll be good.”
Next, UNF will face the winner of No. 3 Campbell/No. 6 Jacksonville on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to all Championship games are available at MercerBears.com.