Defense and balanced scoring lead JU to 83-73 win over Buffalo
With strong outside shooting and a stellar defensive effort, the JU men’s basketball dispatched Buffalo, 83-73, in the UCF Holiday Classic on Tuesday.

Jacksonville (2-7) got 23 points from Ben Smith, who led four Dolphins in double figures to snap a three-game losing streak. In his third straight 20-point effort, Smith hit 7-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-8 from behind the arc.

The Dolphins defensive effort was the best of the season, holding the Bulls (6-4) to just 39.1 percent from the floor and 8-of-26 from behind the arc. JU also limited the Bulls on the glass, holding a 38-35 advantage.

“We had great energy and enthusiasm from everyone tonight and it was contagious,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “Anytime you can hold a good basketball team like Buffalo to less than 40 percent shooting, you’ve done a good job.”

While Buffalo had trouble finding its range, the Dolphins thrived. JU shot 51 percent from the floor in the game and hit 9-of-18 from 3-point land – giving the Dolphins 21 3-pointers in the last two games.

Sporting an eight-point halftime lead, Buffalo opened the second half on a 9-2 run to cut the Dolphins lead to one, 41-40, on a jumper by Rodney Pierce.

But the Dolphins didn’t wilt under the Bulls pressure. They flourished instead, answeredwing with a 9-0 run to take a 58-47 lead with 7:50 left in the game – capping the run with a Travis Cohn 3-pointer.

Buffalo cut the lead to seven with 4:10 left in the game, but JU wasn’t about to let the game slip away – finishing off the 10-point win.

Hardy, playing in a mask after breaking his nose in the opening minutes at ETSU, scored 16 points, pulled down eight rebounds and has six assists in his most complete game of the season.

Cohn added 15 points while Will Alston added a career-high 12 points off the bench. Glenn Powell tied Hardy for the team lead in rebounds with eight.

After Buffalo hit a three on its opening possession, the Dolphins went on a 10-2 run and eventually took a 39-31 lead in the locker room at halftime, led by Smith with 11 and Cohn with 10.

Buffalo got a game-high 26 points from Rodney Pierce along with 23 points and 11 rebounds from Calvin Betts.

The Dolphins return to the court on Wednesday in the championship game against the winner of the UCF-Liberty matchup at 7 p.m.