Men's basketball goes into the spotlight on Friday

Feb. 15, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Riding a three-game winning for the third time this season, the Jacksonville men's basketball team looks to build upon that in front of an expected sellout at Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference "Game of the Week" on Friday.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with Matt Stewart and Sonny Smith calling the action on Comcast Sports Southeast (Channel 54 locally in Jacksonville).

The Dolphins (13-11, 9-5 A-Sun) were selected as the Homecoming opponent for Mercer this season and they are expecting a sellout crowd at the University Center.

Friday's contest will be the Dolphins first game since Saturday's second half rally against Kennesaw State - giving JU a much needed rest.

"This was a good week for us to work on some things in practice and focus on improving as a team," said JU head coach Cliff Warren. "We also were able to get our guys with the regular bumps and bruises that you have at this time of year in the training room to get ready for the final three weeks of the season."

Having won six of the last seven and sporting a 9-3 record in calendar year 2007, the Dolphins have jumped into the top half of the A-Sun standings. The hot streak has moved JU into a tie for third with preseason conference favorite Lipscomb and just a game back of Belmont for second.

With the two Nashville schools on the schedule at home to round out the regular season, the Dolphins control their own destiny for the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun Tournament.

Before all that can take center stage, the Dolphins face a Mercer team that is dangerous at home - led by freshman point guard James Florence.

Florence leads the league in scoring and put up more than 20 in the first meeting in Jacksonville. The Bears took an eight-point halftime lead into the locker room before seeing the Dolphins rally for an 87-77 win.

While Florence has been stealing headlines with his high scoring, the JU freshmen have been equally impressive. Point guard Ben Smith was named A-Sun "Player of the Week" on Monday after leading the Dolphins to wins over Kennesaw State and league-leader ETSU a week ago - scoring a career-high 20 points against the Owls.

In the first meeting against Mercer, Smith had 13 and three assists, joining three other Dolphins in double figures. Lehmon Colbert led JU with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Colbert and Smith are eager to get back into their home state to face Mercer, where a large following of fans from their hometown will greet the Dolphins in Macon. Colbert, a native of Roberta, and Smith, a native of Dublin, had a large group of supporters at the Georgia game and they are expected to be out en masse again on Friday.