JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- The Jacksonville University women’s basketball team battled from 23-down to pull within four in the final minute but couldn’t complete the comeback as they fell to USC Upstate by a score of 66-58 on Saturday afternoon. The contest marked JU’s first home loss of the season as the team dropped to 9-11 overall and 6-3 in the Atlantic Sun.
“We didn’t start the game with any energy,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “We can’t give up 42 points to any opponent and that hurt us. We dug such a hole for ourselves and we can’t be in a situation where we are making that such of a comeback. We need that energy from the beginning of the game and it was disappointing to not see that. The team people saw at the end was the team that we know and the team that must show up every game. We expect nothing else.”
Sophomore guard Queen Alford finished the contest with a double-double on 13 points and 10 rebounds while senior forward Jade Cargill led the squad in scoring with 15 points to go alongside eight boards.
Sophomore guard Brittany Clency led Upstate with 15 points and junior guard Lauren Bogle added 11.
After both teams missed their opening shots, the Spartans used layups to jump out to a quick 6-2 advantage. Sophomore guard Briona Brown immediately cut the lead to two at the charity strip before the Dolphins gave up a fast break on the other end of the floor to trail by four, 8-4, at 16:19. The Spartan layin kick started an 8-0 run which didn’t end until senior guard Ronisha Mitchell hit a pair of free throws, 14-6, at 14:35. A few minutes later, Cargill muscled her way to the basket to provide JU with their eighth point but the Spartans had a 10-point lead, 18-8, with 12:19 remaining in the half.
By the midpoint of the period Upstate had connected on 10-of-15 shots from the floor to build a 23-11 lead. With 5:47 remaining, the Spartans worked their advantage to 31-20 but the next two minutes belonged to Alford and Cargill. The duo combined for nine unanswered points to pull JU within two, 31-29, with 3:43 left. After Alford completed the three-point play, Upstate finished the half on an 11-0 run to enter intermission up, 42-29.
The Spartans commanded both sides of the ball in the opening half of the second frame. Upstate held JU without a basket for nearly 12 minutes while they padded their lead to 52-29. JU’s last shot from the floor occurred on Alford’s free throw in the first period. Freshman guard Sherranda Reddick ended the Dolphins offensive lull on a layup with 11:14 left in the game.
The last three minutes of the contest had everyone at Veterans Memorial Arena biting their nails as Upstate’s 23-point lead was diminished to nine. Senior guard Stephanie Edwards ignited the comeback on a jumper and Brown and Cargill followed on buckets of their own to draw the Fins within four, 60-56, at 1:07.
Clency ended JU’s 7-0 run as she knocked in two shots at the line, 62-56. The Dolphins called a timeout with 30 seconds left and looked to drain a trey to draw nearer but Reddick’s shot narrowly missed. On the next play, Brown went for a steal but was called for contact because JU was over the limit the Spartans were shooting two for the rest of the game. Shelby Hicks hit both of her free throws to push the team up, 64-56.
With 22 seconds left, Edwards ran coast-to-coast and was fouled on the attempted layup. She also hit both of her free throws to make the score 64-58. Another pair of made free throws for the Spartans was all she wrote as JU fell by a score of 66-58.
Next Saturday, Feb. 8, Jacksonville will take a trip down the road to visit River City Rumble rival North Florida. Tip-off is slated for 4:30 p.m.