KENNESAW, Ga. – A game-opening 10-0 run gave the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team a lead they would never relinquish on Thursday night against the Kennesaw State Owls. The Dolphins (12-16, 8-9 Atlantic Sun) looked unstoppable for portions of the first half, but Kennesaw State (6-24, 3-14 A-Sun) hung around and made things very interesting late in the game. The Owls had a shot from Orlando Coleman to win it with two seconds remaining, but it hit front iron and RJ Slawson secured the rebound for the 71-69 victory.
The opening minutes of the game were all in Jacksonville’s favor. Jarvis Haywood had six of JU’s first 10 points and the Dolphins held Kennesaw State without a point for more than six-and-a-half minutes before Nate Rucker could get the Owls on the board. With Rucker doing damage down low, Kennesaw State got to within five at 12-7, before Jacksonville took off on another run – this one 9-0 – capped by five points in quick succession by Vince Martin for a 21-7 lead.
A three-ball from Keith McDougald gave JU its largest lead of the night at 29-12 with less than six minutes until halftime before KSU began to cut into the lead. Rucker was at the center of it, scoring 13 points in the first half while no other Owl had more than three. When Myles Hamilton got into the lane and scored with six seconds remaining and Martin’s long heave on the other end rattled around and out at the horn, Jacksonville’s lead was down to eight, 35-27, at the break.
After trading buckets for the first few minutes of the second half, a Rucker three-point play drew the Owls to within four at 42-38. Jacksonville missed on the other end and Kennesaw State had a chance to get even closer, but the Dolphins turned the Owls over – one of 18 on the night for KSU – and Martin got upcourt for a layup that started a 12-0 JU run. Marcel White followed Martin’s bucket with a three-pointer and J.R. Holder converted a three-point play that made it 50-38. Javon Dawson continued the onslaught with a layup and, following a miss from Coleman inside, Martin began a fast break that ended with a huge White dunk off Martin’s alley-oop pass for a 54-38 advantage.
Playing in front of its home crowd, Kennesaw State refused to quit. Haywood’s jumper with less than six minutes remaining would turn out to be Jacksonville’s last points for over four minutes, in which time KSU had scored nine unanswered to pull within two, 64-62, with 1:40 remaining. That’s when the Dolphins turned to McDougald.
McDougald drew a foul on JU’s next possession and knocked down a pair at the line to break the Dolphins out of their dry spell. KSU answered with a pair at the line but with little happening late in the shot clock, McDougald was able to power into the lane and finish with a layup to make it a 68-64 game with 46 seconds to play. Hamilton went coast-to-coast to cut the lead to two once again with 40 seconds left, but now Kennesaw State needed to foul. Breaking the Owl press, McDougald was fouled with 19 seconds to play and hit both. Moving quickly to find a shot, Delbert Love threw up a three-pointer that splashed through with 11 seconds left and the JU lead was down to a single point.
McDougald again went to the line off of the inbounds pass and hit one to give Jacksonville the 71-69 lead. With neither team having a timeout to work with, Kennesaw State threw the ball in and raced upcourt, where both Hamilton and Love were denied a look from three-point range. The ball finally swung to Coleman as the clock neared triple zeroes and the Jacksonville defense closed out well. His three-point attempt was on line but short, hitting the front rim and bouncing off into the hands of Slawson to clinch the victory.
Dawson and Haywood each had 14 points on the night to lead the Dolphin attack. McDougald ended with 13, while Martin added 10. Haywood also had a team-high eight rebounds and a game-high four steals.
The win is the third in a row for Jacksonville, who despite the win didn’t gain ground in the league standings as Lipscomb and North Florida were winners as well on Thursday. The Dolphins will go to Mercer on Saturday looking to make it four straight and even its conference record at 9-9 against the Bears at 1 p.m.
- Jacksonville’s .373 shooting percentage was the team’s lowest in a victory this season.
- For the first time in over three seasons, Jacksonville never trailed in a victory. The last time the Dolphins led throughout was in a 74-68 win over Mercer on Feb. 20, 2011 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
- For the fourth consecutive game, the Dolphins had at least four scorers in double-figures.
- Jarvis Haywood set a career high with four steals, all of them coming in the first half.
- Keith McDougald matched a season high with three steals in the game.
- McDougald moved into 19th place on the Jacksonville scoring charts, moving past Gene Martineau (1964-67). McDougald now has 1,174 career points. Next up on the charts is Ayron Hardy, who had 1,233 points from 2007-11.