Dolphins escape Kennesaw with 59-56 win

That one word best sums the JU men’s basketball team’s effort as the Dolphins survived a late rally for a 59-56 win over Kennesaw State on Monday night at the KSU Convocation Center.

The win pulls JU (13-10, 11-3 A-Sun) back into a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference after ETSU’s home loss to Stetson.

“This was a tough game, but we were able to come away with the win,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “Anytime you go on the road, you know you’re going to the other team’s best effort. Tonight we were fortunate to make enough plays to win the game.”

Lehmon Colbert led the Dolphins with 13 points, becoming the 26th player in JU history to record 1,000 points in their career. Ben Smith added 12 and Aric Brooks had 10 off the bench.

Colbert’s effort was highlighted by a crucial 3-pointer, JU’s only trifecta of the game, with 3:38 left in regulation to put the Dolphins ahead by nine, 57-48.

The Owls (7-16, 3-11 A-Sun) went on a 8-2 run over the next two minutes, capping the run with Kelvin McConnell’s 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in regulation to cut the deficit to three, 59-56.

Smith missed a jumper in the lane that could have sealed the game, but KSU got the defensive stop and Jon-Michael Nickerson’s game-tying try from the top of the key was off the mark, allowing JU to hold on for the win.

The Dolphins won for the first time this season when getting beat on the boards as Kennesaw State held a 30-24 edge on the glass – scoring 14 second chance points.

Jacksonville got its best free-throw shooting effort of the season, hitting 20-of-22 from the stripe to offset hitting just one 3-pointer.

The Dolphins also took advantage of their few shooting opportunities, hitting 19-of-41 from the floor – including 9-of-18 in the second half.

One other key was the Dolphins converting on KSU mistakes, forcing 18 turnovers into 20 points – with Travis Cohn recording six steals.

KSU got 13 points from Nickerson, 12 from McConnell and 10 from Spencer Dixon in a losing effort.

The Dolphins return home for the SunTrust River City Rumble on Thursday night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with the Jacksonville Showcase concert immediately following the game.