FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2008
Women's basketball escapes with 66-65 win over USC Upstate

Jan. 25, 2008

Box Score

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - A collective sigh of relief echoed throughout each Dolphin as Cherale Powell's 15-foot baseline jumper bounced short of the rim before going over the basket and bouncing a second time as time expired to allow the JU women's basketball team to leave Spartanburg with a 66-65 win over USC Upstate, Friday evening at the G.B. Hodge Center.

JU (16-3, 6-0), which set a program record with 10 consecutive wins, could not shake a spirited Spartan squad as the Dolphins barely won the turnover battle (17-18) and shot 45 percent from the floor.

The Dolphins have now won 14 consecutive games against A-Sun opponents, eight consecutive road games against conference opponents and seven consecutive games on the road. JU, which earned a vote in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll for the third straight week, also holds the second longest winning streak in the nation (17).

USCU (4-15, 0-6) won the battle of the boards (37-35) despite playing with only seven healthy players and took advantage of an 18-of-24 free throw shooting effort compared to only 6-of-8 shots from the foul line by the Dolphins.

JU held its largest lead of the contest, 55-48, with 10:32 remaining in the second half but the Spartans kept hanging around and cut the margin to 64-63 on a 3-pointer by Tiffany Whiting with 1:40 remaining in the contest. After a jumper by junior guard Regina Omoite with 1:31 left, Courtney Hawkins hit a running jumper in the lane to cut the deficit to 66-65 with 13 seconds remaining. Junior guard Virginia Gregoire missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up the last second attempt by Powell.

"We didn't play well tonight and Upstate showed tremendous effort with only seven players," said JU head coach Jill Dunn. "We found another way to win but we obviously have some things to work on before we play ETSU on Monday."

Senior forward Ashley Williams led the Dolphins with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor. Gregoire added 20 points and seven rebounds, while connecting on 8-of-11 shots (including a 4-of-6 effort from beyond the arc).

Hawkins led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the floor and an 8-of-9 effort from the charity stripe. Ebony Johnson added 14 points and six rebounds while Whiting rounded out the Spartan scoring with 12 points.

In the first half, USCU jumped out to an early 11-8 lead (14:48) due to the hot shooting of Hawkins. The Spartans increased the advantage to 18-14 on a three-point play by Cherale Powell at the 12:27 mark but JU answered with a 13-4 run, capped by a Gregoire 3-pointer, to give the Dolphins a 27-22 lead with 8:23 left. JU increased the margin to 34-27 with a bucket by Williams with 6:37 remaining but the Spartans used a 10-4 run, capped by a driving shot in the lane by Ebony Johnson with two seconds left, to make it a 38-37 deficit at the break.

The Dolphins will return home to battle East Tennessee State for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference on Monday at 1 p.m. in Swisher Gymnasium. JU, which owns the second longest home winning streak in the country (17), will feature the contest as the NCAA's "Pack the House" game. The contest can be seen live on ASunTV as part of the JU Sports Network.