Women's Basketball is One Step Closer to Claiming the 4th Seed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One. Step. Closer. Understanding the importance of these last two games, the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team took care of business at home with a 65-46 victory over Kennesaw State on Thursday night. The success improves the squad to 12-16 overall and 9-8 in the Atlantic Sun and puts them in perfect position to claim the fourth seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

Sophomore guard Queen Alford led JU with 15 points and four steals and was trailed closely by sophomore forward Briona Brown and senior forward Jade Cargill who added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Freshman guard Sherranda Reddick also played phenomenally with eight points, eight boards and seven assists.

“This was a big win for us,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “We want to play at home. We want to play the first round here at Jacksonville. We play our best basketball here in Swisher with a great atmosphere and a great crowd. The game started off slow offensively but we’re not going to win any games on the offensive end, it’s all about defense and the positive was we held them to 16 points in the first half. This team has had its ups and downs but when we commit to the defensive end, we play a high level of basketball. I’m proud of the way we committed to that plan from the second half to the final buzzer.”

JU won the opening tip but it took nearly two minutes until either team got a bucket. Brown posted the first score of the game on a steal and coast-to-coast layup at 17:43.

From then on points were hard to come by as the squads stalled at an 11-8 advantage for the Owls for nearly three minutes. It took a pair of free throws from Alford to end the drought and draw the Fins within one, 11-10, with 7:46 on the clock.

Flashing great defensive prowess, the Dolphins were able to force a few turnovers on numerous Owl possessions but couldn’t create on the extra opportunities. Swisher Gym saw its first tie when senior center Madison Scott powered her way to rim, 12-all, at 6:14 and JU’s first breakaway lead, 19-16, four minutes later as Reddick caught her defender with her hands down and knocked in a big time three-pointer. Cargill then stretched the lead with an open look at the top of the key and that was all the first half wrote as the Dolphins entered the locker room with a 21-16 buffer.

Further proof of JU’s defensive effort was noted in the team limiting Kennesaw to just 20.0 percent (5-25) shooting from the field in the first half.

The Dolphins continued to keep the pressure on in the second half while also padding their lead. With Reddick running the point, she dished a backdoor pass to Alford who finished with a reverse layup to lift the Fins 30-22 with 14:02 left.  A couple of minutes later, Bria Young connected on a trey to pull the Owls within a few scores, 34-27.

At the midpoint of the frame, suffocating Kennesaw after the inbound, the Owls exhausted their 10 seconds to get it pass half court which resulted in an easy make, 38-39, from Brown. Taking a 14-point advantage at 8:49, the Dolphins never relinquished the tip and with KSU struggling from the field, JU was able to cruise to the victory.

The Owls shot just 29.8 percent (14-for-47) while the Dolphins had one of their best shooting nights at 50 percent, going 26-for-52.

Young and Gratia Brooks directed Kennesaw with 10 points each while Deandrea Sawyers recorded nine points and seven boards.

Jacksonville returns to Swisher on Saturday, March 8 as they battle Mercer for the 4th seed and a home quarterfinal game at 1 p.m.  The game will also be Senior Night as the Dolphins prepare to say farewell to Cargill, Scott and guards Ciara McLee and Stephanie Edwards.

“We have four young women that have given four years to this program and my staff and I are fortunate to be with them for one,” said McCuin. The fact that we are in fourth place speaks volumes about them. I know they will play their hearts out and the underclassmen will do the same for them. We’re excited because this is about what they are trying to do for the program and I think that's bigger than Senior Night but at the same time we will pay homage to them by putting our best foot forward.”