Men’s Basketball Swarms USC Upstate on Senior Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the four graduating players on the 2013-14 Jacksonville University men’s basketball team, it would be hard to think of a better way to go out on Senior Day than with the fantastic performance they put out on display on Saturday afternoon inside Swisher Gym. Javon Dawson, Vince Martin, Keith McDougald and RJ Slawson combined for 55 of JU’s 88 points, and the Dolphins (11-16, 7-9 Atlantic Sun) put together one of their most complete performances of the season in an 88-82 victory over USC Upstate (17-13, 10-7 A-Sun) that was not as close as the final would indicate.

With the victory, Jacksonville clinched a spot in the upcoming Atlantic Sun Tournament. The Dolphins currently hold the No. 7 spot, but find themselves only a game behind Lipscomb (over whom they currently hold the tiebreaker) and North Florida. UNF and Jacksonville will be in Georgia next weekend to take on Kennesaw State and Mercer, while Lipscomb closes out at home against Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson.

The gear that Jacksonville found in its second half comeback against East Tennessee State two nights ago seemed to carry over to Saturday. USC Upstate had three leads in the game – at 2-0, 4-2 and 6-4 – and each was promptly answered by a Dolphin bucket. The last JU response in that stretch was a Dawson three-pointer to put his team ahead, 7-6. The Spartans would never be as close as that for the rest of the game.

A 9-0 run in which three-pointers from Martin and J.R. Holder sandwiched a three-point play from Jarvis Haywood put the Dolphins ahead, 18-8, with 12:40 remaining in the first half. The three-point barrage continued for Jacksonville as Sam Hunt got in on the act for a 23-13 advantage. Later on, triples from McDougald and Haywood put JU up, 34-22, with less than seven minutes to go until the break. All told, Jacksonville hit on six of its nine three-point tries in the first 20 minutes. The bulge would grow to 13 late in the half and the Dolphins went into the break with a 42-31 lead.

For teams that find themselves facing a large deficit at halftime, the opening minutes of the second half often provide a window of opportunity to cut into the lead and build some momentum toward a comeback. Less than 48 hours after being in the position that USC Upstate was in, Jacksonville was quick to slam that window shut on the Spartans. Dawson and Haywood combined for the first six points of the second half to take a 48-31 lead after less than 90 seconds had gone by. Two free throws from Ricardo Glenn finally provided Upstate a brief respite, until McDougald got into the lane on an ankle-breaking crossover and finished at the rim with contact, converting his free throw for a 51-33 edge.

The Spartans are without a doubt one of the toughest outs in the conference, and they weren’t about to give in. Out of an 18-point hole after Martin buried a three-pointer for a 56-38 lead, Upstate ran off seven in a row, capped by a Ty Greene triple to cut it to 56-45. The answer came from Haywood. Jacksonville’s star sophomore broke out in the second half on Thursday night and it carried right over into Saturday. His floater in the lane broke the Spartan run and put JU back ahead by 13 entering the second media timeout of the half. It also began a 13-3 stretch that would give the Dolphins their largest lead of the entire game at 69-48 after Martin knocked down his third three-pointer of the game with 7:34 to play.

A pressing defense and some lights-out shooting down the home stretch from Karim Mawuenyega pulled the Spartans much closer than they had been the entire second half. Still trailing by 15 points with 2:30 to play after Haywood flipped a lob to Slawson for an alley-oop slam, Upstate went to its freshman guard and were rewarded with four straight three-pointers inside the final 90 seconds. It was a case of too little, too late for the Spartans however.

In a matchup of the A-Sun’s two leading scorers, Haywood just was able to outdo Torrey Craig, pouring in 24 to Craig’s 21. Haywood also added eight rebounds and five assists for the second game running. McDougald scored 20 on the afternoon – including a perfect 11-of-11 at the charity stripe – and also dished out five assists. Martin was close behind with a career-high 18 points and five helpers. Dawson tied with Haywood for game-high honors with eight rebounds, adding 11 points. Slawson provided a little bit of everything for the Dolphins, tallying six points, five boards, three steals, two blocks and two assists.

Craig’s 21 led the Spartans on the afternoon. Mawuenyega had 14. Glenn came in leading the league at .639 from the field, but was held to 2-of-7 shooting and six points.

“I think our guys understand the moment and that it’s the end of the year, we have to build some momentum,” said Head Coach Cliff Warren. “Defensively we’ve been playing much better and that’s creating some easy baskets for us. Team basketball comes on both ends of the court and the things we’re doing for each other on defense carries over to the offensive end.”

Jacksonville begins the final weekend of regular season play on Thursday night, facing the Kennesaw State Owls at 7 p.m. ESPN3 will broadcast the game live.

Game Notes
- Two wins this weekend brought Jacksonville’s record at Swisher Gym to 5-1 on the season, improving the program to 166-66 (.716) all-time.

- Jacksonville committed 13 fewer personal fouls than USC Upstate, the biggest positive disparity for the Dolphins in a game this season. Due to those fouls, JU attempted and made 18 more free throws than the Spartans in the game.

- The starting five of Vince Martin, Keith McDougald, Jarvis Haywood, Javon Dawson and RJ Slawson combined for 79 of the team’s 88 points, the most from the starters this season.

- The Dolphins shot better than 60 percent from the field for the second time this season, previously having accomplished the feat in an 86-66 win over Kennesaw State on Jan. 1, 2014.

- After averaging eight points a game in JU’s three-game losing streak entering the weekend, Haywood averaged 26.0 points per game in the two Jacksonville wins.

- McDougald became the first Jacksonville player since Delwan Graham to shoot at least 10 free throws in a game and connect on all of them. Graham was 10-of-10 on Feb. 8, 2011 against North Florida in a 71-69 win. McDougald hit all 11 free throws he tried en route to 20 points on Saturday, while tying a career high with 35 minutes played.

- Martin set a career high with 37 minutes played.

- Slawson set a career high with three steals and tied a career high with two assists.