Men’s Basketball Readies for Challenge from Northern Kentucky
Josh Murray (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)
Josh Murray (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Days after the fourth-best shooting night in program history, the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team (5-8, 1-1 Atlantic Sun) will try to keep the shots dropping and the wins coming against the Northern Kentucky Norse (5-9, 1-1 A-Sun) on Saturday at 7 p.m. from the Bank of Kentucky Center in Highland Heights, Ky. Scott Manze will provide the play-by-play on 92.5 FM and a live feed will be available on ASun.TV.

Last season provided two down-to-the-wire affairs between these two teams and Saturday could be no different. After welcoming NKU to the Atlantic Sun with a two-point win in the conference opener for each school last season, Jacksonville was on the receiving end of a dramatic comeback victory at home by the Norse to close the regular season. Though Northern Kentucky was ineligible for the A-Sun Tournament in its first season of Division I play, the two teams ended with identical league records in 2012-13.

The hope for Jacksonville is to shoot something closer to the .651 percentage that they burned the nets with on Wednesday against Kennesaw State and not the meager .271 they put up against Mercer on Monday. Behind four players in double-figures – including a 22-point game from Jarvis Haywood that was the highest point total from a Dolphin this season – JU raced out to a big first half lead over the Owls and looked poised for a blowout before KSU shifted gears and pulled within eight in the final seven minutes of the game. The Dolphins remained calm and hit some big shots down the stretch while locking down on defense to secure an 86-66 win to even their conference record. The single-game field goal percentage was the best from the program since a .674 shooting night in an 84-81 loss to Florida State on Feb. 3, 1979.

Northern Kentucky comes in on the heels of an overtime victory at Stetson on Wednesday in which the Norse scored a putback bucket with less than two seconds remaining in overtime to get the victory. NKU played a high-profile non-conference schedule with losses to Purdue and Kentucky early on. More recently, a loss at North Carolina is interspersed among a stretch of four wins in six games. Junior college transfer Jordan Jackson runs the show for the Norse, relying on penetration to lead the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game. The junior has yet to hit a 3-pointer on the year in five attempts. Tyler White chips in with 10.5 points a game, and Todd Johnson leads four players who average more than four rebounds a game with 4.7 coming in on the season.

Jacksonville concludes the brief two-game trip with a 6 p.m. meeting with the Lipscomb Bisons on Jan. 6 in Nashville.