First-year coach Lewis Preston said the last 10 minutes of Kennesaw State's 76-68 loss to North Florida at the KSU Convocation Center was arguably the best basketball the Owls have played all year.
Kennesaw State (3-18, 0-9) was making timely layups, free throws and keying in on open shots. The Owls also took advantage of North Florida's missed free throw opportunities.
Kennesaw State started a final run with less than 4 minutes to play. Delbert Love's layup pulled the Owls within single digits for the first time since the 9-minute mark of the first half.
The charge continued when Markeith Cummings recorded a steal on the defensive end and added a pair of free throws to get within six. An Aaron Anderson layup, a Love 3-pointer from the top of the key and a Spencer Dixon free throw cut the North Florida lead to 71-68 with 1:05 to play.
"We started making good shots and getting baskets," Anderson said. "One person got on, then two people got on and then the whole team got on and we kept it going as long as we could."
But that's as close as the Owls would get.
A free throw by Matt Sauey and a Travis Wallace layup off an in-bounds pass by Jimmy Williams with 45 seconds left put North Florida back in front by six and killed Kennesaw State's momentum.
The Owls last two possessions of the game resulted in turnovers.
The last 10 minutes played a role in four Kennesaw State players scoring in double figures, led by Anderson's 19 points and 14 rebounds, Cummings finished with 17 points, Love had 15 on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and Dixon added 10.
Most of the factors that contributed to Kennesaw State's loss showed in the first half. Eight of the Owls' 12 turnovers came in the first half. They were outscored 38-3 from the bench with Wallace coming in to lead the Ospreys with 27 points. Kennesaw State also struggled defensively early in the first half, allowing the Ospreys to get low in the lane and make their first 9 of 11 shots.
North Florida scored 10 unanswered points midway through the first half while denying Kennesaw State the post. Six of those 10 points came on treys by Parker Smith, who finished with 18 points.
All Kennesaw State can do is move forward after nine straight losses and build on its final 10 minutes of play.
"I went to military school, and it was much worse than this," Preston said. "We can either stay down or dust ourselves off and go at it again."