JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Atlantic Sun conference race remains wide open as the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team hits the road for a pair of games this weekend, beginning on Thursday night at USC Upstate. The Dolphins (8-10, 4-3 A-Sun) and Spartans (9-10, 2-4 A-Sun) will tip off at 7:30 p.m. in a game that can be seen live on ESPN3. Scott Manze will bring you the action courtside as well, on 92.5 FM.
The offense continues to roll for Jacksonville, with the Dolphins averaging 81.0 points per game in six games since the beginning of 2014. The latest outing didn’t have the outcome the team was hoping for however, as missed free throws played a big part in allowing North Florida to come back and claim an 86-82 win at UNF Arena last Friday. Jarvis Haywood led the way with a career-high 29 points, becoming the A-Sun’s leading scorer this season in the process. Keith McDougald added 20 points and Javon Dawson posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the incredible pace at which the game was played, both the Dolphins and Ospreys kept miscues to a minimum. The teams combined for only seven turnovers in the contest.
Haywood and McDougald have been lighting up opponents in conference games so far, and the matchup against Upstate will feature the top-three scorers in Atlantic Sun contests. Haywood has shot .552 from the floor in A-Sun games and knocked down .545 of his attempts from 3-point range to pour in 18.6 points per game, a number that leads the conference. McDougald has shot .821 from the charity stripe to help himself score at a 17.0 points per game clip, ranking third in the league. Upstate’s Ty Greene is the only person keeping the JU duo separated at the top of the leaderboard, averaging 17.5 points through six games.
USC Upstate comes in on a two-game slide after narrow losses on the road at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson last weekend. The Spartans were among the preseason favorites in the conference race and posted impressive wins over Virginia Tech and South Carolina early in the season, but have slipped a bit as of late to sit in a seventh-place tie with East Tennessee State in the league standings going into the weekend. Greene has led the offense in conference games, but Torrey Craig is still the focal point of the Upstate attack. The senior forward was named the Preseason Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and is leading the team in points (16.7) and rebounds (7.4). Ricardo Glenn is another big body down low for the Spartans and averages 11.1 points and 6.5 boards.
This will be the 13th battle between the Dolphins and Spartans, with Jacksonville currently holding an 8-4 lead edge in the series. The two teams split the regular season meetings last season, with each team winning on their home courts. Thrown together in the 4-5 quarterfinal matchup in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, Upstate came away with a 76-62 win in Macon, Ga. The Spartans have won three of the last four games between the two, including each of the last two contests in Spartanburg at the Hodge Center.
Jacksonville concludes its three-game road trip on Saturday with a 4 p.m. game against East Tennessee State.