WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For the first eight minutes of Monday night’s game at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons couldn’t miss. Trailing 28-13 by the second media timeout of the contest, the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team appeared in danger of being run out of the gym. But rather than lay down, the Dolphins kept things together, cranked up the pressure and fought their way back into it.
A lead that reached 16 with less than nine minutes to halftime was down to nine at the break. Then it was four. Then one. And with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game, Jacksonville took its first lead, 62-61.
After expending all that energy in the comeback, the Dolphins (1-3) didn’t have enough in the tank to make it to the finish line. Some poorly-timed turnovers and foul trouble eventually allowed Wake Forest (4-0) to escape with a 90-83 win.
Scoring a lay-up immediately off the opening tip, Wake Forest never trailed in the first half, running out to a 12-3 lead in the opening three minutes of the game. Appearing comfortable playing at JU’s pace, the Demon Deacons found success from beyond the arc and through the finishing ability of Codi Miller-McIntyre to gain the upper hand in the first half.
Jacksonville had some answers in the backcourt, with Jarvis Haywood and Vince Martin supplying an early scoring punch. RJ Slawson also got in on the act, connecting on a hook shot while being fouled to keep JU within range. But after Kordario Fleming scored inside to pull the Dolphins within eight at 21-13, Wake Forest responded with a 7-0 run to take the 28-13 lead with 12:20 until halftime.
After two scoreless minutes each way, the Jacksonville reserves sparked a rally. Sam Hunt hit a pair from the line, then added a lay-up a minute later. Following a Wake Forest miss, the Dolphins pushed the ball up the court and found Marcel White for an open look. His triple brought JU within 11, and Hunt hit a three-ball himself with just under seven minutes until the break to cut the deficit to nine.
White found himself open once again from distance with less than three minutes to go in the half, and his second career 3-pointer made it 41-32. A pair of free throws and a jumper from Haywood had Jacksonville within five points with less than a minute to go in the half, but Wake Forest momentarily stole the momentum back with two buckets in the final 15 seconds of the half to lead, 46-37.
Despite having to cope with a size disadvantage that allowed Wake Forest to grab 57 rebounds in the game – the most by an opponent in the Cliff Warren Era – Jacksonville shrugged off the tough end to the first half and continued to fight its way back into the game. Haywood and Fleming combined for the first nine points of the second half by the Dolphins to keep the team within seven, then Hunt rang up a 3-pointer following a Wake Forest turnover that made it 53-49.
The Demon Deacon lead was back to eight, 61-53, until Jacksonville erased the deficit and took the lead with a 9-0 run that took just 1:30 off the clock. Martin started it off at the rim, getting the hoop plus the harm. His free throw and a Haywood jumper sliced the deficit to three. White then battled for an offensive board and a putback that made it 61-60. The next time down, Haywood finished in the lane to put the Dolphins on top with 11 minutes to play.
The next time down the floor, Coron Williams hit one of his four 3-pointers in the contest to put Wake back in the lead and the teams battled to seize control over the next few minutes. Martin gave JU the lead one last time with a lay-in at the nine-minute mark, only for Miller-McIntyre to come right back with a triple to put the Demon Deacons up for good.
Struggling at the charity stripe down the stretch, Wake Forest allowed Jacksonville to cut it to four, 87-83, with 24 seconds remaining after Hunt knocked down his third trey of the game, but that was the last field goal the Dolphins would hit with the clock working against them.
Haywood led the Dolphins with 19 points, hitting 7-of-11 field goal attempts and 5-of-6 from the line. Hunt had 15 off the bench and was joined by White with 14, career highs for each player. Martin had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Slawson added 11 points and six boards.
Leading the way for Wake Forest was Travis McKie with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Miller-McIntyre added 20.
"I was very proud of our effort in spurts in the first half, but I was really proud of the effort in the second half," said Warren. "I thought we battled back against a very good team, unfortunately we didn't do a good enough job getting rebounds. We executed on offense, we did a good job getting easy transition baskets when we were able to get the ball off the glass, but Wake Forest did an excellent job of creating second chances."
The Dolphins host their first game at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday, facing the Florida A&M Rattlers at 3 p.m.
Monday’s game was Cliff Warren’s 250th as head coach of the Jacksonville Dolphins.
Wake Forest’s 57 rebounds in the game were the most allowed by a Jacksonville team during Warren’s nine years in charge.
Freshmen Sam Hunt and Marcel White each scored in double-figures for the first time in their collegiate careers. Hunt nailed three 3-pointers on his way to 15 points. White shot 6-of-9 from the field and ended with 14 points.
Vince Martin had career highs of eight rebounds and seven assists, along with 11 points.
JU tied a season high with 10 steals in the game.
For the second time in just four games, Jacksonville had five players reach double-figures in scoring. The team accomplished that feat on three occasions in the entire 2012-13 season.
The Dolphins were whistled for 27 fouls in the contest, a season high.
Wake Forest moves to 6-0 against Jacksonville in the all-time series.