Women's Hoops hosts Florida Atlantic on Thursday night

Feb. 15, 2006


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After splitting games on the road last week, the Dolphins women's basketball team (7-14, 4-10 A-Sun) returns to the friendly confines of Swisher Gymnasium to face Florida Atlantic (12-7, 8-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. In the earlier meeting at FAU Arena, JU erased a 20-point deficit in the second half to fall just short in a 74-71 loss on Dec. 3, 2005. The Dolphins, who currently own the final spot in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, are currently in the midst their first three-game home winning streak since 2002-03. With seven wins, JU has recorded the second most wins in program history (13 - 2000-01).

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 (22) and sophomore forward Ashley Williams (20) combined for 42 points and freshman guard Regina Omoite drew a crucial charge with 11 seconds left to lead JU to a 66-63 win over Kennesaw State on Feb. 11 at the KSU Convocation Center. JU has now won the second most games in program history and equaled its second-highest win total in A-Sun play since 2002-03. KSU was led by Shavonder Clarke, who tallied a game-high 30 points and 15 rebounds. Leading 37-32 at the half, JU never relinquished the lead despite the Owls cutting the deficit to two on seven occasions, including four times in the final five minutes of play. With JU leading 65-63 with 25 seconds remaining, Jennifer Baker stole a crossing pass by Omoite and started a two-on-two break. Omoite recovered defensively and drew on charge on Baker to negate a layup and give JU possession with 11 seconds left. On the inbound, Omoite was fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 66-63 with nine seconds remaining. Clarke's three-pointer fell short with three seconds left and the clock ran out to give JU the win.

Dolphin notables: Against East Tennessee State, sophomore forward Ashley Williams, who was the only Dolphin to finish in double-figures, finished only 4-of-14 from the floor but connected on 7-of-8 free throws. Freshman forward Kelly Ford finished with nine points, six rebounds and two steals, while freshman guard Regina Omiote added nine points. Junior center Talia Johnson made her first appearance since Nov. 19, 2005, after recovering from a knee injury. Against Kennesaw State, senior guard Sheena Carpenter, who did not start for the first time this season, shot 9-of-12 from the floor to go with three steals. Williams tallied her eighth 20-point performance of the year after connecting on 9-of-13 shots to go with six rebounds. Freshman guard Virginia Gregoire added nine points and four rebounds, while Ford chipped in with seven points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. JU shot 50 percent from the floor (25-50) and connected on 16-of-23 free-throws, compared to 38 percent and 13-of-20 by the Owls.

A-Dub in the paint: Sophomore forward Ashley Williams was named Atlantic Sun Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week on Feb. 7 after leading the Dolphins to a pair of wins and the program's first three-game home winning streak since 2002-03. Williams became the first Dolphin to receive the A-Sun weekly honor since forward Yolisha Jackson on Feb. 22, 2002. Williams scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field to help the Dolphins defeat Kennesaw State on Feb. 4. She has now tallied eight 20-point performances on the year. In A-Sun play, Williams ranks fifth in scoring (17.1 ppg), second in blocked shots (2.21) and free-throw percentage (.850) and sixth in field-goal percentage (.528). Overall in the conference, she is fifth in scoring (17.0 ppg), first in blocks (2.05 bpg), second in field-goal percentage (.550), fourth in rebounds (7.8 rpg) and free-throw percentage (.808). 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. She also tied the program record with 19 rebounds (Kat Sungy) against Savannah State on Dec. 12 and six blocks (Millica Milijkovic) at Campbell on Feb. 2. Williams is currently 43 points shy of breaking the program record for single-season points (399), which was set by Kat Sungy in 2001-02.

Goin' out with a bang: Senior guard Sheena Carpenter has come alive in 2005-06 after adjusting to a new squad and a different offensive strategy. She has began to heat up at the end of the season by reaching double-figures in points in nine of her last 11 games, including two 20-point performances. Against Kennesaw State, she led the sqaud with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor. In A-Sun play, Carpenter ranks seventh in points (15.3 ppg), seventh in free-throw percentage (.791). Overall in the conference, she is seventh in scoring (13.9), ninth in free-throw percentage (.753) and 10th in rebounding (6.7 rpg). In the JU career record books, she recently moved into second place with 188 assists. She needs three more to surpass Lexie Richards (1999-04) as the all-time leader. She is also third in rebounds (367) and free-throws made (191) and fourth in points (775) and steals (70). Carpenter also needs eight points to surpass Richards for third on the all-time list.

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 14 losses this season, the scoring average leaders are as follows: Williams (15.7 ppg), Carpenter (14.9 ppg), junior guard Nakina Alford (6.7 ppg), freshman guard Regina Omoite (5.8 ppg) and freshman guard Virginia Gregoire (5.6 ppg). Also to be added in the equation is a combined average of two assists per game by Omoite. In seven wins, the scoring average leaders are as follows: Williams (19.6 ppg), Carpenter (11.7 ppg), Alford (10.3 ppg), Gregoire (10.0 ppg), and Omoite (6.3 ppg). During that span, Omoite is averaging 3.7 assists per game.

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. The Dolphin's inexperience showed up on the stat sheet as JU averaged 21.7 turnovers compared to 17.1 by its opponents in the first 11 games of the season. In the last 10 games, JU is averaging 16.0 compared to 21.4 by its opponents. Looking more closely than that, the Dolphins are averaging 14.3 turnovers in their recent three-game home winning streak, with their opponents shelling out 23.3 per game. Currently, the Dolphins are averaging 19.0 turnovers per contest, compared to 19.1 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: In conference play, the Dolphins are currently second in free-throw percentage (.705) and blocked shots (4.36 bpg), fifth in scoring offense (61.9 ppg), offensive rebounds (14.71 rpg) and turnover margin (+1.64), In A-Sun play, sophomore forward Ashley Williams ranks fifth in scoring (17.1 ppg), second in blocked shots (2.21) and free-throw percentage (.850) and sixth in field-goal percentage (.528). Overall in the conference, she is fifth in scoring (17.0 ppg), first in blocks (2.05 bpg), second in field-goal percentage (.550), fourth in rebounds (7.8 rpg) and free-throw percentage (.808). In A-Sun play, senior guard Sheena Carpenter ranks seventh in points (15.3 ppg), seventh in free-throw percentage (.791). Overall in the conference, she is seventh in scoring (13.9), ninth in free-throw percentage (.753) and 10th in rebounding (6.7 rpg). In A-Sun play, freshman guard Virginia Gregoire is sixth with 2.77 offensive rebounds per game.

Injuries no longer a factor: No matter what the year, it seems that injuries are the center of attention for the JU women's basketball program. But recently, the injuries have subsided and the Dolphins are getting to full strength in the final weeks of the season. 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 center Talia Johnson missed 17 games (Nov. 23-Feb. 4) this year with a knee injury and before returning to the lineup on Feb. 9 at East Tennessee State.

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.

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.

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.

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) make up the incoming freshmen. Guard Crystal Ayers (Okaloosa Walton JC) and forward Ashley Williams (North Florida CC) will join the squad as transfers.