ETSU Escapes with 76-75 Victory over Jacksonville
Jarvis Haywood & Marcel White (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)
Jarvis Haywood & Marcel White (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Showing the same grit and resolve that was on display two nights earlier in a comeback effort at USC Upstate, the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team roared back from a 14-point first half hole to lead by as many as five in the second half before falling to East Tennessee State on Saturday, 76-75. Two Jarvis Haywood free throws with 25 seconds remaining gave the Dolphins a one-point lead, but that was answered by a bucket from Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard with less than 10 seconds to play. JU pushed the ball upcourt and got a look at the potential game-winner, but Vince Martin’s attempt with one-tenth of a second left hit the front iron and bounced off.

It was a disappointing end to a spectacular effort from Jacksonville, who trailed for much of the contest but never gave in. Haywood got off to a fast start, scoring six of the first eight Dolphin points as the team took an 8-7 lead at the first media stoppage of the contest. Hunter Harris banged his way to a bucket down low after play resumed to give East Tennessee State a 9-8 lead it would maintain all the way into the break.

It was the unexpected productivity of ETSU’s Lester Wilson that supplied the Buccaneers with their biggest boost in the first 20 minutes. Averaging less than eight points a game on the season, Wilson knocked home his first three three-point attempts and had 13 in the first half alone. With three starters picking up a pair of personal fouls early on, it was left to the Jacksonville bench to pick up the slack. Marcel White had four points in the opening stanza and J.R. Holder had seven – including the final four JU points – to cut what had been a 39-25 deficit to 43-36 at the break.

ETSU extended to a double-digit lead with a three-pointer to open the second half, but Javon Dawson was right there with consecutive hoops to draw Jacksonville closer. A three-point play from Haywood brought the Buc lead down to five, and he later knocked down a transition jumper to make it a 50-47 ballgame and force a timeout from the Buccaneers to slow JU down. Both teams had a couple of fruitless possessions after the stoppage of play until ETSU’s Jalen Riley dropped off a pass for no one in particular to initiate a Jacksonville fast break off of a Keith McDougald steal. McDougald found Martin up ahead and he laid it off to Dawson who finished with a lay-in to make it 50-49.

Jacksonville soon had the game tied and took the lead back with under 12 minutes remaining as the Buccaneers failed to cover White on an inbounds pass and he swished a 3-pointer to give the Dolphins a 56-53 edge. A minute later, he hit from the same spot to make it 59-55 and Holder added a free throw to give JU its largest lead at 60-55 with 10 minutes remaining.

Jacksonville’s offense went silent for four minutes after that, allowing ETSU to knot the game at 60-60. Haywood broke the drought with a driving lay-up that he banked in hard off the glass while being fouled, putting the Dolphins up by three. Harris responded with a 3-point play of his own on the other end, picking up the fourth foul on RJ Slawson. Seconds later, Slawson was whistled for a loose ball foul and relegated to the bench with 5:39 remaining. Forced to play an expanded role, White scored back-to-back hoops to keep JU in it as ETSU took a 70-67 lead at the final media timeout.

A 6-0 JU run coming out of the break gave the Dolphins a 73-70 lead with 1:42 to play and made ETSU use its final timeout. The Bucs used baskets from Gadsden-Gilliard and Riley to retake a 74-73 edge with less than a minute to go, but Jacksonville knew where to go with the ball. Driving hard into the paint, Haywood was fouled and casually sank both ends of a one-and-one opportunity with 25 ticks on the clock.

With its last chance, ETSU went inside to Gadsden-Gilliard and the powerful forward was able to muscle in a shot off the glass while being fouled with less than nine seconds to go. He missed the free throw and Jacksonville pushed the ball up the court, looking to give Haywood a look. Bottled up as he attempted to drive in, Haywood dished off to Martin who had to give the shot some extra arc to get over the oncoming defenders. The ball was on-target, but the iron was unkind for the point guard as ETSU earned its second straight win.

Haywood scored a game-high 23 points for the Dolphins, while White came off the bench to add 14. Dawson had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Martin added seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Gadsden-Gilliard scored 17 for ETSU, while Harris and Wilson each had 13 for the Bucs.

Jacksonville returns home next week to take on Lipscomb on Jan. 30 at 7:15 p.m. from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Game Notes
- For the first time this season, Jacksonville was defeated in a game in which it outrebounded its opponent.

- The Dolphins set a season high with 17 fast break points.

- The 22 points that JU got from its bench was the most so far in conference play.

- Marcel White reached double-figures for the fifth time this season and has scored a minimum of 14 points on those five occasions. Going 5-of-7 from the field, it was also the best shooting performance for him in a game in which he attempted more than one shot.

- Javon Dawson had his second double-double in the last three games.