Women's Basketball hosts Kennesaw State on Thursday

Jan. 4, 2006


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After dropping a road contest to North Florida on Monday, the Dolphins women's basketball team (3-6, 0-2 A-Sun) will look for their first A-Sun win of the season as JU hosts Kennesaw State (1-7, 1-2) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Dolphins, who play their next two games at Swisher Gymnasium, went 2-1 in their most recent homestand with victories over Savannah State (70-55) and Bethune-Cookman (69-40). The contest will also mark the return of Yolisha Jackson (2002-05), who is currently a graduate assistant with the Owls.

Head coach Jill Dunn: Jill Dunn enters her second season as head coach of the Jacksonville University women's basketball program after leading JU to its most overall and conference wins in three seasons, despite the loss of their top two post players. No stranger to the Atlantic Sun Conference, Dunn spent the previous three years helping Georgia State to three consecutive A-Sun Conference titles from 2001-04. Before joining Georgia State, Dunn was the top assistant coach at Miami University (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. Before 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.

A look at the latest action: Senior guard Sheena Carpenter led all scorers with 19 points, but foul trouble and poor shooting by JU in the second half gave North Florida a 64-51 Atlantic Sun Conference win, on Jan. 2 at UNF Arena. JU shot 29.6 percent from the floor in the second frame (8-27) as the Dolphins lost control of a three point halftime lead. UNF scored 38 points on 56.5 percent shooting (13-23), and 9-of-11 free throws, in the second half. Carpenter finished shooting 8-of-15 from the field with seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Ashley Williams increased her double-digit scoring streak to nine games with 12 points, while also adding seven rebounds and four blocks.

The A-List: A solid presence is being felt under the basket this season and it has been none other than sophomore forward Ashley Williams. The North Florida Community College transfer has made the biggest impact for the Dolphin newcomers in 2005-06 as she has become one of the Atlantic Sun Conference's top scorers. On Monday, Williams continued her double-digit scoring streak by tallying 12 points against North Florida. Williams has now scored at least 10 points in every game this season. Williams currently ranks fifth in the A-Sun with 17.0 points per game, leads the conference with a .598 field-goal percentage, second with 1.89 blocks per game, fourth with 9.2 rebounds per game and is tied for seventh with 2.0 steals per game. Williams tied a program record with 27 points (12-of-14 from the floor), nine rebounds, four steals and blocked shot in a 98-60 loss to USF on Nov. 23. Williams accounted for nearly half of the Dolphins' offense as she continually scored in the low post against taller defenders, including a game-high 13 points at the half. Williams also tied the program record with 19 rebounds (Kat Sungy) against Savannah State on Dec. 12.

I wish I were a Carpenter: Senior guard Sheena Carpenter has come alive in 2005-06 after adjusting to a new squad and a different offensive strategy. Against Florida Atlantic, Carpenter narrowly led the Dolphins to their first win to open Atlantic Sun Conference play after falling in a 24 point hole. In the first half, she led JU with 10 points as the Dolphins trailed 45-26 at the half. In the second frame, Carpenter was a catalyst for a Dolphin rally as JU used runs of 15-3 and 19-7 to pull within three points with 12 seconds remaining. Carpenter led the offensive assault by finishing with a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds, including a career-high 11-of-12 effort from the free-throw line. She has continued her hot hand by leading all scorers with 17 points against Central Michigan on Dec. 19 and 19 points at North Florida on Jan. 2. Carpenter is currently eighth in the conference in scoring (13.4 ppg), sixth in rebounding (8.1 rpg) and seventh in assists (3.22 apg).

An interesting trend: The Dolphins are powered by the dynamic duo of senior guard Sheena Carpenter and sophomore forward Ashley Williams. But JU has only been successful in the win column when the supporting cast jumps to the forefront. In six losses this season, the scoring average leaders are as follows: Carpenter (16.5 ppg), Williams (16.0 ppg), junior guard Nakina Alford (8.0 ppg), freshman guard Virginia Gregoire (4.5 ppg) and freshman guard Regina Omoite (3.8 ppg). Also to be added in the equation is a combined average of 5.2 assists per game by Carpenter and Omoite. In three wins, the scoring average leaders are as follows: Williams (19.0 ppg), Alford (13.3 ppg), Gregoire (11.7 ppg), Omoite (8.0 ppg) and Carpenter (7.3 ppg). During that span, Carpenter and Omoite are averaging 8.0 assists per game.

Dolphin notables: Sophomore forward Ashley Williams has tallied at least 10 points in each of her nine games. Freshman guard Virginia Gregoire tallied six points, a sesason-high seven rebounds and three assist in her second straight start. Freshman forward Kelly Ford scored four points, while also grabbing five rebounds at UNF. Freshman center Precious Robinson finished with two points and two rebounds in four minutes at UNF. It was her first action after sitting out four games with an ankle injury. Against UNF, JU finshed with less than 60 points for only the second time this season.

Taking care of the ball: One of the staples of improvement for the Dolphins last season was turnover margin. Last season, JU averaged 17.1 turnovers per contest, compared to 19.0 by its opponents. The Dolphins' turnover margin (+1.89) ranked second in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Florida Atlantic (+2.14) and Troy (+1.07) were the only other members to post a positive turnover margin on the year. That trend changed in the early part of the 2005-06 season, but the squad is beginning to show steady improvement. The Dolphin's inexperience showed up on the stat sheet as JU averaged 24.5 turnovers compared to 18.5 by its opponents in the first four games of the season. In the last five games, JU is averaging 19.6 compared to 19.2 by its opponents. Currently, the Dolphins are averaging 21.2 turnovers per contest, compared to 18.2 by their opponents 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 2004-05: 17.1

JU in the A-Sun: The Dolphins are currently ranked second in rebounding margin (+2.6) and blocked shots (4.22 bpg), fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.62), field-goal percentage (.394) and free-throw percentage (.662), fifth in assists (13.11 apg), scoring offense (62.0 ppg), scoring margin (-3.4), three-point field-goal percentage (.303) and field-goal percentage defense (.401).

Injuries starting to improve: No matter what the year, it seems that injuries are the center of attention for the JU women's basketball program. Last season, injuries took their toll on the Dolphins' post players when center Kara Donnell had missed the first half of the year while recovering from a knee injury in the preseason. After suffering another setback in her first practice, she is out indefinitely. Forward Yolisha Jackson has missed 17 games when she reinjured her left knee against Mercer on Jan. 6. This year, sophomore guard Crystal Ayers will miss the entire season due to surgery on her right knee. Ayers was penciled in to start at point guard after transferring from Okaloosa-Walton Junior College. Junior forward Talia Johnson has also missed the first three games of the year with a knee injury. She will be out indefinitely. Johnson was the Dolphins' most experience post player heading into this season. Freshman center Precious Robinson returned to action on Jan. 2 after sitting out the last five games with an ankle injury (Nov. 26-Dec. 29).

In select company: Senior guard Sheena Carpenter became only the second Dolphin in program history to be named to the preseason All-Atlantic Sun Conference team in November. She joins former forward Kat Sungy, who earned the honor prior to the 2001-02 season. Last season, Carpenter was the focal point for the Dolphins offense despite the squad being beset by injuries to the post. Since taking over the point guard position as the playmaker for the offense, Carpenter averaged 17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest. Carpenter led the squad with an average of 14.4 points and 3.4 assists, while also shooting 40.9 percent from the field. In the A-Sun, Carpenter ranked sixth in points (14.4 ppg), assists (3.37 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (0.93) and sixth in free-throw percentage (.764). In the Dolphin career record book, she is fourth in points (622), fifth in assists (157) and third in free throws made (121) despite playing in only her second season with the program.

The land of opportunity: Not only is JU attempting to make a name for itself with its performance on the floor, several former players and coaches have gotten opportunities to advance their careers after spending time with the program. Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, an assistant coach last season with Dolphins, was hired for the same position at Charlotte on May 25. Rebecca Montz and Yolisha Jackson, who each finished their JU careers last season, were hired as graduate assistants at Centenary College and Kennesaw State, respectively.

A couple of returners: Senior guard Sheena Carpenter was named to the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Conference Team. Carpenter, who is the first Dolphin to be selected for the honor since forward Kat Sungy in 2001, joins Stetson guard Nefertiti Walker (Preseason Player of the Year), Florida Atlantic guard Shontavia Williams, Gardner-Webb guard Sequenta Blackman and Gardner-Webb forward Shameka Smith. Carpenter, the squad's lone senior, led the Dolphins with an average of 14.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Her points and assists per game ranked sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference, while also finishing sixth with a 0.93 assists-to-turnover ratio. Also rounding out the returners for the Dolphins are junior guard Nakina Alford, junior center Talia Johnson and junior guard Jenarie Davis.

And a few new faces: Leading the infusion of youth for the Dolphins this season will be five freshmen and two junior college transfers. During their prep career, the class combined to win three state titles, six regional championships and 16 district crowns, while also combining for a 305-57 overall record. Forward Kelly Ford (University Christian), guard Virginia Gregoire (Deerfield), guard DaVina Hamilton and guard Regina Omoite (North Miami Beach) and center Precious Robinson (Orlando Christian) make up the incoming freshmen. Guard Crystal Ayers (Okaloosa Walton JC) and forward Ashley Williams (North Florida CC) will join the squad as transfers.