JU survives Savannah State rally for eighth straight win, 72-68
Ben Smith scored a game-high 31 points and the JU men’s basketball team need every one of them as they survived a late rally by Savannah State for a 72-68 win at Tiger Arena on Monday night.

Smith scored 21 of his 31 in the second half for his third 30-point scoring performance of the season, pacing the Dolphins (11-8) to their eighth straight win. He hit 10-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc, hitting 8-of-10 from the free throw line.

With the game tied at 68 and 15 seconds left, Russell Powell hit two free throws to put JU on top and avoided the upset bid by the Tigers when Patrick Hardy’s 3-point attempt to take the lead hit the top of the backboard, getting waved off by the referees, before eventually going through the net.

“We’re thankful to come away with a good win in a tough atmosphere,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball late in the game and we let them back in it. But, we got some big plays down the stretch and hit free throws.”

The Tigers (8-13),who trailed by as many as 14 in the second half, were down 10, 62-52, with 5:03 left after a pair of Lehmon Colbert free throws capped a 6-0 spurt by JU to push the lead to double digits.

Savannah State slowly clawed its way back into the game by holding JU to just one point over the next three minutes to cut the deficit to two on a 3-point play by Rashad Hassan with two minutes remaining.

After Colbert missed a pair of free throws, Tracy Rankins driving jumper off the window tied the game at 68 with 17 seconds left.

Russell Powell was fouled bringing the ball up the floor and hit two free throws to put JU on top by two. Hardy’s missed 3-pointer for the Tigers gave the ball back to JU and Smith iced it with two free throws with six seconds left to give JU the win.

Colbert had 15 points and six rebounds while Travis Cohn had 10 points. Russell Powell finished with six points as only six Dolphins scored in the game.

Leading by four at halftime, JU came out fast out of the locker room and pushed the lead to 14 in the first four minutes, capping a 12-2 run to take a 40-26 lead.

JU struggled early in the first half and trailed for most of the first 17 minutes before finishing the half on a 7-1 run to take a 28-24 lead into halftime.

Savannah State got 19 points from Rashad Hassan, with Arnold Louis getting 15 and Rankins adding 12.

With his high scoring night, Smith passed Roger Strickland for fifth place on the school’s all-time scoring list. His four steals moved him into third place on the all-time steals list, passing Dee Brown.

The Dolphins return to the hardwood on Friday in the second half of the SunTrust River City Rumble at UNF. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.