Women's Basketball Hosts Mercer on Thursday Night

Jan. 5, 2005

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After dropping its first home contest of the 2004-05 season against Charleston Southern on Dec. 31, the JU women's basketball team will return to Atlantic Sun Conference play with games against Mercer and Georgia State at Swisher Gymnasium this weekend . The Dolphins (3-6, 0-2 Atlantic Sun), who went 3-4 in non-conference play, will host the Bears (3-6, 1-1 A-Sun) on Thursday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m. JU will then host Georgia State on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m.

A Look at Mercer: The Bears enter the contest with a 3-6 overall mark and a 1-1 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play this season. Mercer recently ended a three-game losing streak with a 67-56 win over Georgia State on Jan. 3 at the University Center.

Brenda Welch-Nichols is in her third season at the helm of the Bears program and has compiled a 28-37 record. Mercer is led by the front court of senior forward Jessica Miller and junior forward Rosana Davis. Miller leads the squad with an average of 12.7 points per game, including a game-high 23 points against Georgia State, while Davis chips in with 9.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Sophomore guard Sarah Russell is the Bears' spark off the bench with an average of 9.8 points per contest.

In the Last Meeting: Freshman guard Beth Richards had a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor, but Mercer opened the game with a 32-8 run to hand the Dolphins a 66-53 loss at the University Center on Feb. 12, 2003. Yolisha Jackson and Rebecca Montz each added nine points for the Dolphins.

Head Coach Jill Dunn: Jill Dunn is in her first season as head coach of the Jacksonville University women's basketball program. No stranger to the Atlantic Sun Conference, Dunn spent the past three years helping Georgia State to three consecutive A-Sun Conference titles from 2001-04. A former NCAA Division I head coach and player, Dunn brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to JU as she becomes just the second head coach in program history.

Before joining Georgia State, Dunn was the top assistant coach at Miami University (Ohio), Ohio during the 2000-01 season. Prior to her one-year stint in Miami, Dunn served as the head coach at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., from 1998-00. In her final season with the program, the Lady Catamounts posted 12 wins which was the most in 15 seasons at WCU and the most ever by a second-year head coach in the Southern Conference. Prior to being elevated to the head spot at Western Carolina, she was the top assistant coach during the 1997-98 campaign. Dunn's coaching career began at the University of South Carolina, where she was as an assistant coach from 1994-97.

Dunn's success began as a player at Georgia Southern, where she was a three-year starter from 1989-93. She earned Second-Team All-Southern Conference honors and led the Lady Eagles to the SoCon Tournament championship game and a berth in the NCAA Tournament as a senior.

Dunn earned her first victory as the Dolphins' head coach with a 61-52 win over Birmingham-Southern on Nov. 21.

A Look at the Latest Action: Senior forward Yolisha Jackson tallied a season-high 18 points and two other Dolphins scored in double figures, but it was not enough as JU fell to Charleston Southern, 65-59, on Dec. 31 at Swisher Gymnasium.

After trailing by as many as seven points in the second half (8:03), the Dolphins used a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 53-52 with 6:14 remaining in the contest. The Lady Bucs answered with a 6-0 run to increase the lead back to seven (59-52) with 4:31 left, but JU cut the deficit to three (59-56) after a jumper by senior guard Rebecca Montz with 2:38 remaining. Both teams went scoreless for the next two minutes until the Dolphins were forced to put the Lady Bucs on the line with 24 seconds left.

Montz and junior forward Ashley Stinson also added 10 points apiece to round out the Dolphins in double figures.

Winning Reputations: First-year head coach Jill Dunn and assistants Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Andrea Williams have a combined average of 31 years in age, but their 22 years of coaching experience easily makes up for that.

The trio has accounted for six conference titles, four NCAA Tournament appearances and two recruiting classes ranked nationally by the All-Star Girls' Report.

In comparison, the Dolphins have only been in existence for five years and have qualified for postseason play one time (1999-00).

Back on Track: Senior forward Yolisha Jackson responded strongly to her double-figure scoring streak being snapped by tallying a season-high 18 points against Charleston Southern on Dec. 31.

Jackson had recorded at least 10 points in 13 consecutive games until finishing with four points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field on Dec. 20 at Eastern Illinois. Against Charleston Southern, she finished 5-of-10 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.

Jackson joined Kat Sungy as only the second Dolphin to break the 1,000-point barrier, when she hit her first basket against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 29.

She needs 118 points and six steals to surpass Sungy as JU's all-time leading scorer and steal leader.

Hitting a Cold Front: After shooting .360 from beyond the arc through seven games, the Dolphins have gone cold, and the results have been an 0-2 record.

In the last two games, JU has combined to shoot 11.4 percent (3-35) from the three-point line. Individually, senior Rebecca Montz is 1-for-10 (.100) while sophomore Nakina Alford is 2-for-16 (.130) during that span.

Prior to the slide, Montz had posted a 17-for-34 mark (.500) while Alford was shooting 16-for-45 (.329).

Finding a Way: Despite poor shooting from the outside, senior guard Rebecca Montz continues to rank among the top guards in the A-Sun.

Among conference players, Montz ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (1.70) and third in assists (3.78 apg).

Finding a Way Part 2: Sophomore guard Nakina Alford has cooled from long range but has taking her game to the rack as her free-throw attempts have increased dramatically.

Through the first six games of the season, Alford had posted a 6-for-6 effort at the charity stripe while connecting on 14-of-42 (.333) three-point attempts.

In the last three contests, Alford is 12-for-13 from the line and 4-of-19 (.210) from beyond the arc.

With her increased attempts, Alford now ranks third in the A-Sun with a .947 free-throw percentage.

Taking Care of the Ball: Through nine games, JU is averaging 17.2 turnovers per contest, compared to 19.4 by its opponents. The Dolphins' turnover margin (+2.22) currently leads the Atlantic Sun Conference. Florida Atlantic is the only other member of the conference to post a positive turnover margin (+1.80). The following is the average turnovers per contest in JU history: 1999-00: 25.1 2000-01: 23.3 2001-02: 28.2 2002-03: 25.7 2003-04: 19.7