Men's hoops rallies to knock off Kennesaw State, 76-72

Feb. 10, 2007

Box Score

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville men's basketball was able to awake from its hangover from the win on Thursday to rally from a 13-point halftime deficit to knock off Kennesaw State, 76-72, at Swisher Gymnasium.

The Dolphins (13-11, 9-5 A-Sun) won their third straight and sixth in the last seven games behind a career night from freshman point guard Ben Smith and another stellar night from senior point guard Jesse Kimbrough.

Smith scored a season-high 20 points, hitting 7-of-11 from the floor and a perfect on four free throw attempts, while dishing out four assists. Kimbrough scored 19 points with five assists, hitting 5-of-14 from the floor and 8-of-13 from the free throw line.

"We didn't play in the first half, but we were able to battle back to win," said JU head coach Cliff Warren. "We gave them some uncontested shots in the first half, but we played some solid defense in the second half to limit their chances."

The defensive effort in the second half was the difference in the game. JU held the Owls (11-16, 7-8 A-Sun) to 6-of-24 shooting in the second half, including an 0-for-10 mark behind the arc.

Jacksonville's third second half rally of the season started quickly, with the Dolphins cutting the 13-point halftime deficit to five, 43-38, capping the run with a Lehmon Colbert layup.

Kennesaw State pushed the lead back up to nine with 13 minutes left in the game before JU started another run. The Dolphins went on a 11-2 spurt over the next two minutes, sparked by an Evan Jefferson 3-pointer to cut the lead to two, 55-53, with 10 minutes left in regulation.

The two teams battled over the next four minutes, with the Dolphins finally pulling ahead for the first time in the game, 59-57, on a 3-point play by Smith with 5:49 to go.

The Owls were able to tie the game at 61, but Smith answered with a four-point play, hitting a 3-pointer and knocking down the free throw as the Dolphins went ahead 65-61 with 4:13 remaining.

The Dolphins eventually pushed the lead to six before the Owls mounted one last rally, cutting the deficit to two, 74-72, with 18 second remaining.

With the game in the balance, Smith calmly went to the free throw line and knocked the final two free throws to clinch the win.

Kennesaw State had five players score in double figures, led by Brent Ragsdale's 17. Shaun Stegall had 16 with Andre Morgan, Jon-Michael Nickerson and Golden Ingle adding 12 apiece.

JU's undefeated string at home was in peril after a dismal first half. The Dolphins turned the ball over 13 times, hit just 9-of-25 from the floor and saw Kennesaw State get hot shooting, knocking down five 3-pointers for a 41-28 lead at the half.

The game was a physical contest with the two teams combining to rack up 55 fouls and shooting 70 free throws.

With the win, the Dolphins are two games above .500 for the first time this season and are 11-0 at home, including a 3-0 mark at Swisher Gymnasium.

Marcus Allen and Tyrone Curnell led the JU rebounding effort with six apiece. Colbert and Curnell just missed on scoring in double figures with nine each.

The Dolphins are off until Friday when they hit the road for the final time in the regular season to face Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference "Game of the Week." Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with the game to be televised on Comcast Sports Southeast.