JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a new year and a fresh start for the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team. Showing no signs of any residual effects from Monday’s loss to Mercer, the Dolphins played perhaps their most complete game of the season to come away with an 86-66 victory over Kennesaw State on Wednesday night at Swisher Gym. Jacksonville improves to 5-8 (1-1 Atlantic Sun), while Kennesaw State drops to 3-12 (0-2 A-Sun).
The star of the show on the night for Jacksonville was without a doubt Jarvis Haywood. The sophomore guard had game-highs of 22 points and six rebounds, and added in a career-high seven assists. Playing his 40th game in the Green and Gold, Haywood reached the 500-point mark of his collegiate career late in the contest.
He was far from the only player to step up, however. Vince Martin had 10 points in the first half on his way to 16 in the game. Keith McDougald had 10 big points in the second half and scored 14. Javon Dawson did the dirty work in the paint and ended with 12 points and five boards. Off the bench, J.R. Holder hit a clutch late-game 3-pointer to help squelch a Kennesaw State rally and ended the night with eight points. When all was said and done, the Dolphins ended the night shooting 28-of-43 (.651) from the field, the best single-game performance from a team in Cliff Warren’s nine years at the helm.
Tied at 7-7 four minutes into the game, Jacksonville began to pull away with a 7-0 spurt started by Haywood from behind the arc and finished with four points from McDougald in quick succession. Kennesaw State didn’t falter immediately, keeping things close throughout the middle of the first half and bringing the game within four points on a number of occasions.
JU’s big run came with less than nine minutes remaining in the half. Ahead 26-22, Dawson started things off with a 3-pointer, then Sam Hunt knocked down a trey to push the lead to double-digits for the first time. Not stopping there, the Dolphins answered an Owls 3-pointer with a pair of free throws from Holder and a Martin bomb to up the lead to 37-25. Tyler Alderman and RJ Slawson combined for five points in the ensuing minutes to make it a 16-3 spread in four minutes of action. Jacksonville’s lead would grow to 19 until Tanner Wozniak knocked down a long two-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make it a 49-32 contest.
Orlando Coleman opened the scoring for Kennesaw State in the second half, but Jacksonville responded with an 11-0 run to grow the bulge to 60-34 with less than 16 minutes remaining. The Dolphins would soon be glad for that cushion as the Owls fought back with an immediate 13-0 rally to slice the lead in half before Haywood ended it with a layup in traffic. Kennesaw State continued to claw its way back into it and a Wozniak 3-pointer in transition brought the JU lead back to nine, 70-61, with 6:30 remaining. One minute later, Nigel Pruitt canned a triple and the Owls were within eight, 72-64.
Needing a stop and a shift in momentum, Jacksonville played strong defense the next trip down and forced a contested 3-point attempt from Pruitt late in the shot clock. Haywood corralled the rebound and pushed the ball forward where Martin eventually worked himself free for a good look at a 3- pointer. It went down and started an 8-0 to once again reestablish a comfortable working margin for the Dolphins. By the time the Owls got back into the scoring column, less than two minutes remained and JU would shut them down the rest of the way.
“Our defense did a very good job of paying attention to details. The way we worked on that end of the floor led us to have success on the offensive end,” said Warren. “Once we got stops we were able to get out in transition and we’re a tough team to stop when we get that going.”
Jacksonville will now go out in search of its first win away from home on the season, first battling Northern Kentucky (5-9, 1-1 A-Sun) on Jan. 4 at 7 p.m., before closing out the trip north with a Jan. 6 game at Lipscomb (5-8, 0-2 A-Sun) at 6 p.m.
- Jacksonville’s starters combined for 71 points in the game, 10 more than its previous season-best output (61 at Gardner-Webb).
- Shooting .651 from the floor (28-of-43), including an amazing .737 (14-of-19) in the first half, Jacksonville had its best shooting night not just of the season, but of Cliff Warren’s nine years as head coach.
- Giving up just 19 rebounds to Kennesaw State, the Dolphins also set a new standard for the fewest rebounds given up in a game in Warren’s time running the show.
- The halftime score continues to be a good indicator of where things are headed for JU this season. Jacksonville is 5-0 when leading going into the break and 0-8 when behind at the half.
- Jarvis Haywood’s 22 points were a season-high for any Jacksonville player this season. His second-to-last bucket of the night saw him reach the 500-point plateau for his career in his 40th game in a JU uniform.
- Haywood also set a career high with seven assists.
- Vince Martin was another Dolphin who had a great shooting night. He scored a career-high 16 points, knocking down 4-of-5 from downtown and hitting all four free throws he attempted.
- Jacksonville was able to avoid any major foul trouble in the game and RJ Slawson was among the biggest beneficiaries. The graduate forward was able to play a career-high 28 minutes, scoring seven points and grabbing five boards.