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Happy Osborne never backs down from a challenge.
And that is exactly how he wants to be remembered as a coach as he prepares to take his Georgetown College basketball team 11 hours south to take on the Southeastern Conference's No. 1 ranked University of Florida Gators in the Tigers' opening game of the season.
The Tigers' will tip off 7 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be available on Gator Vision, https://www.nmnathletics.com/regflow/PackageInfo.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=6500®_GROUP_ID=82038&SHOW_ALL=YES, for $4.95.
"Flat out, this is David versus Goliath," he said.
And while this is an underdog battle for Georgetown, the team is no stranger to close games with top-ranked Division I opponents.
This past year, the Tigers battled U of L in a fast-paced game where the Cardinals barely edged Georgetown in the final minutes of the game, 80-68, in a game where the Tigers led 35-31 at the half.
Georgetown has also been known to surprise top teams like University of Pittsburgh when they were a Top 25 NCAA team.
"One thing we have to do in these games is make sure the guys realize that we can win these games," Osborne said. "They have to believe in themselves or it can't happen."
The Gators could be the most athletic and talented team the Tigers have ever faced since coach Osborne has led Georgetown.
"They are a great team," he said. "They have outstanding pressure. They play a tough, full-court zone, and their speed and athleticism is tougher than we've ever seen. It's going to be special to play them. They have the potential to be a Top 10 team before the season's out."
Despite this, the coach thinks his players have talent to run with the Gators.
"You have to be good enough to play Division I to play with us," he said. "That's what makes a good NAIA team."
Florida has already played an exhibition game, defeating Florida Tech, 92-54 Thursday - an advantage Osborne wishes his team had.
"We've had scrimmages, but it's not the same as putting on your jerseys and playing a real game," he said. "In all other seasons, we didn't have to open against a team of this caliber."
While the Tigers do project former Division I players like Rodney Haddix, the coach maintains that the setting and stage does not matter.
"Once the ball goes in the air, it doesn't matter where you are or who you are playing," he said. "You have to be ready."
The strategy in this game will be to keep the Tigers' normal fast-paced style of play, while remembering the subtle differences between NCAA and NAIA.
"We've got to use our timeouts wisely," Osborne said. "We have a 10-round fight here. We've got to play hard four minutes, then rest during the two-minute timeouts. We have to play one possession at a time, and we have to stay out of foul trouble."
A season ago against Louisville, the Tigers had three players in foul trouble for the majority of the game. Vic Moses and Maurice Pearson - two of GC's key players - fouled out, giving the Cardinals an advantage late in the game.
"It really hurt us," Osborne said. "And we have to focus on that this year. We still need to play tough, but we have to keep our post players in the game."
With everything to think about, the coach is excited to get down to Florida.
"I think this is awesome for our program," he said. "We have a lot of alumni in Florida, so this will give them the opportunity to see us play. And this game will make us better, no matter the results. We haven't faced any adversity yet, so this is a chance to see how we will react when we get knocked down. But to win a fight, you have to throw a punch, and we plan to do it early."
|(RV) Lindsey Wilson at||8:00pm|
|(4) Lindsey Wilson at||6:00pm|
|Cumberland Univ. at||4:00pm|
|(14) Cumberland Univ. at||2:00pm|
|(10) University of Pikeville at||8:00pm|
|(22) University of Pikeville at||6:00pm|
|(18) University of the Cumberlands at||4:00pm|
|University of the Cumberlands at||2:00pm|
|University of Maine at Fort Kent at||7:00pm|