JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Everyone’s favorite month is almost here and the Jacksonville University men’s basketball season will be looking to enter March on a high note when the Dolphins (11-16, 7-9 Atlantic Sun) match up with Kennesaw State (6-23, 3-13 A-Sun) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Scott Manze and Artis Gilmore will call the game on 92.5 FM, and ESPN3 will have the live stream with Nathan McCreary and Theresa Gernatt courtside.
There’s plenty at stake on Thursday night across the Atlantic Sun, as not one of the eight seeds for the Atlantic Sun Tournament has yet been totally locked in. For Jacksonville, the two wins last weekend against East Tennessee State and USC Upstate clinched a tournament berth and ensured that the Dolphins could not fall lower than their current No. 7 position. However, JU owns a tiebreaker over Lipscomb (who they trail by one game) and could still rise about North Florida all the way to No. 5 if results fall the right way over the weekend. One way or the other, Jacksonville’s weekend in Georgia will continue in parts unknown on Tuesday night in the A-Sun Quarterfinals.
It’s amazing what one weekend can do for a team, and the Dolphins are riding high after two games in Swisher Gym. On Thursday night against ETSU, Jacksonville came back from a halftime deficit for the first time this season, scoring 57 second half points to surge past the Buccaneers in a 91-86 victory. Jarvis Haywood had 24 of his 28 points in the second half, along with eight rebounds and five assists. Two days later, the five JU starters combined for 79 points – led by 24 from Haywood – and the Dolphins established a second half lead of as much as 21 points on USC Upstate in an 88-82 triumph on Senior Day. With 52 points in those two games, Haywood was awarded his first Atlantic Sun Player of the Week honor on Monday.
Though not quite on the same hot streak that JU is, Kennesaw State appears to be playing its best basketball late in the season. The Owls have won two of their last four to stay alive in contention for the final spot in the conference tournament, but a KSU loss or a Stetson win in either of the next two games will be enough to clinch the final seed in the tournament for the Hatters and eliminate the Owls. Delbert Love is the only KSU player averaging double figures, scoring 12.1 points per game. He also leads the team in assists and steals. Orlando Coleman is the second-leading scorer on the team at 9.9 points per game and is ninth in the A-Sun in rebounding at 6.1 a game.
Back on Jan. 1, Jacksonville had its best shooting night of the season, making 28-of-43 from the field (.651). Just as impressively, the Dolphins limited Kennesaw State to 19 rebounds in the entire contest, running away with an 86-66 win. Haywood had a game-high 22 points that night, while Vince Martin added 16. JU has won 13 of the 17 all-time meetings between the two sides, and will be trying to make up for a road loss to KSU last season that snapped a 12-game winning streak in the series.
Jacksonville concludes the regular season on Saturday afternoon, taking on Mercer at 1 p.m. ESPN3 will also have the broadcast of that contest.