On Friday night, Smith added another – hitting a 28-footer to force overtime and the Dolphins did the rest as the JU men’s basketball team took over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference with an 82-72 overtime win over ETSU.
In the A-Sun “Game of the Week,” Smith scored 26 points, with 23 coming in the second half and overtime. He hit four 3-pointers in the game, including two in the final 90 seconds to give JU new life.
“The shot Ben hit to force overtime was big, but we did a lot of good things throughout the half as a team to get back into the game,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We didn’t get off to a good start, but we came out with a lot more energy and intensity in the second half.”
JU (12-8, 10-1 A-Sun) won its ninth straight with four players finishing in double figures. Lehmon Colbert picked up second straight double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Marcus Allen added 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five blocks.
The Dolphins, who trailed by 10 at the half, saw the lead expand to 12 midway through the final half before making a run.
JU cut the deficit to three via a 7-0 run, capped by a dunk by Colbert with 7:05 left in regulation.
The Bucs (15-6, 9-2 A-Sun) were able to extend the lead back to seven and were able to hold a six-point lead, 65-59, after a layup by Adam Sollazzo with 3:26 remaining in the second half.
The Dolphins closed regulation on a 9-3 run, with all of the points coming from behind the arc. Evan Jefferson started the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to three. After a stop, Smith drained a trifecta to tie the game at 65 with 1:05 to go in regulation.
Sollazzo answered with a 14-foot jumper to give the Bucs a 67-65 lead with 33 seconds left. Smith tried to answer on a floater off the glass, but it fell off the front of the iron, with Sollazzo getting the rebound.
The freshman point guard made just one out of two, setting up Smith’s heroic 3-pointer to force overtime.
Once into overtime, the Dolphins dominated.
JU scored on its opening possession and after the Bucs answered with a basket, the Dolphins scored the next four points and were able to slowly pull away for the win – hitting all eight free throw attempts in the overtime period.
ETSU had five players finish in double figures, led by Mike Smtih’s 18 points and 16 rebounds. Micah Williams had 14 points off the bench, with Sollazzo adding 12 while Kevin Tiggs and Courney Pigram had 10 each.
Ayron Hardy had 10 points for JU before fouling out early in the extra period.
Smith’s late 3-point barrage continued the magic of JU’s gold jerseys. The Dolphins wore those in coming back from down 19 in the A-Sun opener against Belmont, then against ETSU as JU rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit.
The Dolphins don’t have much time to celebrate as they return to Swisher Gymnasium on Sunday to face USC Upstate. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.