Trailing by four to start the half, the Dolphins (10-17, 6-10) used a 25-4 run in the final 10 minutes to dispatch the Spartans (11-17, 7-10) and punch their ticket into the A-Sun tourney.
Freshman Queen Alford continued her Freshman of the Year bid with a season-best 25 points to lead JU. Alford has scored in double-figures in eight of the last nine games, including the last seven in a row. She has also had at least six rebounds in six of those nine contests.
Not to be outdone, sophomore Britney Holliday had a career-best 15 points on three 3-pointers for the Dolphins.
“We are starting to play well at the right time,” JU head coach Jill Dunn said. “Our team made some great second-half adjustments to set up the win. We have a short turnaround with a game Thursday, but I know we will be ready.”
After hitting a program record 38 free throws against ETSU, the Dolphins shot 51.9 (14-17) percent from the charity stripe in the win. The Dolphins scored 23 points on 19 Spartans turnovers and 11 steals.
Trailing 38-34 to start the second half, the Dolphins got three-pointer from junior Ronisha Mitchell and a layup from senior Tracie Sneed to wrap a 14-2 stretch for a 48-40 advantage (14:04). Consecutive layups from Alford helped the Dolphins take a double-digit lead, 57-42, with 10:28 left. A three-point play from Tee’Ara Copney helped cut the USC Upstate deficit to 61-48, but the Dolphins pushed the advantage to 67-48 on a free throw by junior Jade Cargill with 6:10 remaining. Senior Maggie Wilson knocked down a running three-pointer to beat the shot clock in the final minute to put an exclamation point on the win.
Copney had 18 points and four steals to pace the Spartans. Valese McAllister scored 12 points off the bench in the loss.
In the first half, the Dolphins took an early 13-9 lead on a Holliday three-pointer at 16:38. Copney capped an 11-5 USC Upstate stretch with a three-pointer to give her team a 20-18 advantage (10:16). Copney added another three-pointer less than three minutes later for a 27-20 advantage, but JU regained the lead, 32-30, on a Holliday three-pointer with 3:58 left. Layups from McAllister and Copney in the final minute helped the Spartans take a four-point lead at halftime.
Sneed had eight points in her final game at Swisher Gymnasium, while freshman Briona Brown added seven boards. Mitchell and junior Ciara McLee each finished with six points.
The Dolphins end the regular season on the road starting Thursday against Lipscomb in Nashville, Tenn. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.com.