SATURDAY, MARCH 07, 2009
Dolphins fall in A-Sun title game to ETSU, 85-68
The JU men’s basketball team’s return to the NCAA Tournament will have to wait another year as the Dolphins dropped the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament championship game to East Tennessee State, 85-68.

ETSU (23-10) got a team-high 22 points and 12 rebounds from Mike Smith, who earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Kevin Tiggs earned tournament MVP honors with his 21 points in the finale.

The Dolphins (18-13) are guaranteed a spot in the National Invitation Tournament via winning the A-Sun regular season title, JU’s first postseason action since receiving a spot in the NIT in 1987.

“We let them get some good looks early and when they get some confidence, they are a dangerous team,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We didn’t keep them off the boards and gave them a lot of second chances that hurt us.”

The Dolphins second straight trip to the championship game turned into a nightmare as the Bucs dominated the boards and scored 20 second chance points.

Ben Smith led JU with a game-high 29 points to lead three Dolphins in double figures, hitting 9-of-19 from the floor. Lehmon Colbert pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds while Ayron Hardy and Evan Jefferson had 11 each for JU.

Jacksonville struggled shooting in the first half, hitting just 35.7 percent from the floor. It wasn’t until late in the second half that the Dolphins found their offensive flow, scoring 23 points in the final seven minutes.

After falling behind 4-0, the Dolphins scored six straight to take a 6-4 lead on a basket by Ben Smith with 13:12 left in the first half.

From there the Bucs took over, going on a 13-0 run that eventually led to ETSU taking a 43-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Any hopes of a second half comeback faded quickly as the Bucs pushed the lead to 24, 54-30, using a pair of 3-pointers to spark the 11-2 run.

JU fell behind by as many as 30 before making a late run to cut the deficit to 14 on a 3-pointer by Smith with 1:25 left in the game.

The Dolphins will have a week to prepare as they await the announcement of the NIT field on Selection Sunday, which is March 15. For information on JU’s postseason trip, check JUDolphins.com for updates.