WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2012
Women’s hoops wraps New Year opening slate starting Thursday
The busy slate to start the New Year is finally coming to a close for the JU women’s basketball team as they host USC Upstate on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Swisher Gymnasium.

The Dolphins (4-12, 2-3 Atlantic Sun), who opened the year with six A-Sun games in 13 days, end the week on Saturday against East Tennessee State in the Veterans Memorial Area for the SeaBest SeaFood “Free Admission” day. Tipoff for that contest is at 1 p.m.

“We are happy to be playing on our home court,” JU head coach Jill Dunn said. “The players have been working extremely hard and we are making positive strides.”

The Dolphins saw their three-game winning streak snapped over the weekend by the two hottest teams in the league, Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast. The Hatters fought off two late JU rallies for a 93-86 double-overtime win, while the Eagles used a first-half run to secure their sixth straight win.

Senior Crystal Bell remained one of the Dolphins most consistent scorers after posting 20 points and six steals at Stetson and had 12 points in the loss at FGCU.

Since Nov. 29, Bell has hit double-figures in 11 straight contests, including 15 or more points three times. Bell leads the team in scoring (12.6), steals (44), blocks (16), while ranking third in rebounds (6.3). She needs only 20 steals to tie Courtney Jackson (2006-10) for the fifth all-time.

The Dolphins have been playing better at home after recording four straight wins in the last four home contests. In those wins, the Dolphins hold a 73.2 to 66.5 scoring edge. JU has also forced 98 turnovers in the four games and picked up 55 steals.

The Spartans (2-14, 1-4) broke an eight-game losing skid with a 77-56 win against Mercer on Monday. Tee’Ara Copney scored 18 points in helping USC Upstate snap the losing streak.

Copney paces the Spartans in scoring with a 15.9 average and steals with 28. Briana Robinson is second in scoring (7.3 ppg), while Paula Zaveckaitel leads the team in rebounding (7.4).

In the all-time series, the Spartans hold a 4-3 edge since joining the conference in 2007. Each team took the matchup at their home court last season. The Dolphins secured an 87-75 win in Swisher Gymnasium last January.

The Lady Bucs (4-11, 3-2) will play at North Florida on Thursday before making the trek downtown. ETSU lost 11 of their first 12 contests, but have won the last three games. Natalie Pickwell scored 20 points on Monday night in leading the Lady Bucs to a 77-61 win against Kennesaw State.

Pickwell paces the offense with a 10.5 scoring average, while Destiny Mitchell ranks second at 9.9 points a game. Tarita Gordon leads ETSU in steals with 19.

Last season, the Dolphins snapped a 10-game losing streak to ETSU in the A-Sun semifinals to advance to their third title game in the last four seasons. ETSU owns a 13-2 edge in the all-time series. The Dolphins only other win was at home on Feb. 15, 2007 (83-79).

Fans can follow the action through the live links on JUDolphins.com.