The University of North Florida was watching the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top player pick them apart in the first half.

Their own interior leader sat injured on the sidelines.

The Ospreys were staring at their worst conference start in Matthew Driscoll’s nine-year tenure.

“There’s an old saying in athletics, to punch somebody in the mouth,” Driscoll said. “They were definitely punching us in the mouth.”

So it wasn’t easy to imagine that the Ospreys would be walking away from UNF Arena with a 102-96 win against Lipscomb on Thursday night.

But that’s what happened after Noah Horchler got a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds, J.T. Escobar led the sharp-shooting offense with five 3-pointers and gritty guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa put the game away with clutch free throws down the stretch.

UNF struggled in the early going as Bisons junior guard Garrison Mathews, already named conference player of the week four times this season, looked like adding a fifth award by scoring 21 points before halftime.

“He’s as talented as they come,” said Driscoll, who said that former Ospreys guard Beau Beech simulated Mathews in practice earlier this week before his return to the NBA’s developmental G-League.

But the Birds of Trey offense, which converted 14 of their 27 efforts from 3-point range and shot 51.9 percent from beyond the arc, brought the Ospreys (7-12, 1-1) back.

When they needed a clutch three, they usually got one from Escobar, who fought through a stomach illness to give UNF a short-lived lead just before halftime and a permanent one at 17:23 of the second half.

“When somebody’s feeling that, it just catches up to everybody else,” Gandia-Rosa said.

That ignited an all-out surge, with UNF outscoring Lipscomb 29-11 in a span of seven minutes and 20 seconds.

“I really thought that

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