JU men race past Florida Gulf Coast, 71-53
The JU men’s basketball team found its rhythm early and often on Saturday as the Dolphins raced by Florida Gulf Coast, 71-53, at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Dolphins (15-11, 13-4 A-Sun) stayed tied for the lead in the Atlantic Sun Conference, with four players scoring in double figures led by Ben Smith’s 13.

JU led by 11 at the half and pushed the lead to as many as 23 in the second half, cruising to a school-record 13th win in conference play.

“We played with a lot of energy and intensity today,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We didn’t allow them to get comfortable and did a good job of executing on offense. “

After watching three of its last five opponents put up 70 points or more, the Dolphins regained their defensive prowess – holding the Eagles to 35.8 percent shooting and 53 points.

The Dolphins controlled the glass as well, holding a 42-35 advantage while scoring 19 second chance points. The defense also forced 23 turnovers and the Dolphins converted those into 30 points.

Aiding JU’s effort was 32 points from the bench – led by Marcus Allen’s 10 points and six rebounds. Starting in Allen’s place was Szymon Lukasiak, who scored six points in his second career start.

Jacksonville also got 10 points and seven rebounds from Ayron Hardy – who hit all three of his shots from the floor, while Lehmon Colbert had 10 points and team-high eight rebounds.

Florida Gulf Coast (11-20, 7-13 A-Sun) scored the game’s opening basket, led a few minutes later at 4-3, and never was in the game again as JU had a nine-point lead midway through the opening half en route to a 34-23 lead at the intermission.

The Dolphins put to bed any hopes of a comeback in the opening five minutes, going on a 10-1 run to push the lead to 20. The lead grew to as many as 23 and the Eagles cut the deficit to 14 with 3:36 left in the game, but were never able to get back into the contest.

Florida Gulf Coast was led by a game-high 14 points from Delvin Franklin and Derrick O’Neil. Kyle Marks had 10 points to round out the three Eagles in double figures.

JU hit the hardwood at the Arena for one final time this season for Senior Night on Monday against Stetson. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.