Men’s Basketball Defends Home Court; Tops South Carolina State, 61-47
Vince Martin (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)
Vince Martin (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – All the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team wanted for Christmas this year was to end non-conference play with a win. Behind the team’s best defensive effort of the season, the Dolphins got exactly what they wished for. Forcing South Carolina State into 20 turnovers and .320 shooting from the field, Jacksonville (4-7) sent the Bulldogs packing with a 61-47 win on Monday night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

With both Jarvis Haywood and Keith McDougald back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game with Samford, an extra boost of energy was palpable from the team right from the opening tip. Making his first career start, Jeremy Bogus took a feed from Haywood and laid in the first bucket of the night to put the Dolphins quickly ahead.

South Carolina State took its only lead of the game four minutes in on a layup from Daryll Palmer that made it 4-3. Back quickly down on the other end of the court, Haywood knocked in a 3-pointer that ignited a 9-0 run from the Dolphins to make it 12-4 seven minutes in.

Both offenses slowed in the middle of the first half and Jacksonville led, 15-7, halfway through. The Bulldogs suffered another empty possession when a 3-pointer clanged off the back iron, but South Carolina State momentarily appeared to have regained control of the ball as the rebound caromed long. Suddenly, Vince Martin swooped in from the blind side and picked the pocket of the Bulldog rebounder, going coast-to-coast to give the Dolphins a double-digit lead, 17-7, with nine minutes remaining in the half.

Jacksonville’s pressure defense continued to wreak havoc on South Carolina State throughout the opening 20 minutes. The Bulldogs were forced to use two timeouts just to inbound the ball after Javon Dawson put JU up, 21-10. When they did get the ball in play, the Dolphins promptly forced a turnover and McDougald threw it down to extend the lead to 13 points. The Bulldogs improved in the final minutes of the half and were able to trim the lead before the break, but Jacksonville went in ahead, 31-23.

When Bogus swished a 3-pointer to start the second half, it appeared as though the Dolphins might just run away it. South Carolina State buckled down however, and the Jacksonville offense went through a tough stretch that was no doubt aided by foul-shooting difficulties. After hitting on only 8-of-16 free throws in the first half, JU missed on its first five attempts in the second half, allowing the Bulldogs to pull closer and closer. McDougald showed his basketball IQ by scoring on a lob on an inbounds pass with just under 15 minutes to play, putting the Dolphins ahead, 38-29. That would prove to be the final field goal that Jacksonville would hit for nearly five minutes though, by which time the lead had been cut into significantly.

SCSU’s Adama Adams led the Bulldogs on the night with 13 points, and when his transition 3-pointer found the bottom of the net with less than eight minutes remaining, Jacksonville’s lead was down to two, 44-42. Following a timeout from the Jacksonville bench, Haywood scored on a tough drive through the lane to go back up by four. A number of trips down the court came up empty-handed from both sides, until at the four-minute mark, Martin hit a 3-pointer late in the shot clock that put the Dolphins back in command at 49-43. From there, JU hit on its final 10 free throws while keeping the Bulldogs in check to come away with the victory.

Haywood led all scorers on the night with 18 points. Martin once again put together an impressive stat line with 15 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Dawson set new career highs with 13 rebounds and five assists. Josh Murray came off the bench to help the Dolphins with four points, three rebounds and a block, as well as some tough defense on South Carolina State’s leading scorer, Matthew Hezekiah, who was held to 10 points.

“I thought we were very alert and active tonight,” said Head Coach Cliff Warren. “They paid attention to the scouting report down to a T. They contested the guys who were 3-point shooters; they boxed out the guys who were their athletic rebounders. I just really thought we paid attention to detail. On offense, we scored some easy baskets early and that gave us some energy. We need more of that going forward.”

The Dolphins open Atlantic Sun play a week from tonight, taking on Mercer on Dec. 30. Tip-off for that game is set for 7 p.m. from Swisher Gym.

Game Notes
- The last time JU held an opponent to less than 50 points came last season in a 49-47 home win against Mercer on Jan. 12, 2013.

- Jacksonville has turned all four games in which it’s had a halftime lead into victories.

- JU held a +2 margin on the boards against South Carolina State. That’s now the second time this season that the Dolphins have outrebounded an opponent. The other time came in the home opener against Florida College on Nov. 12.

- The Dolphins held the Bulldogs to .320 shooting from the field. That’s the lowest field goal percentage that a visiting team has had against Jacksonville since the Dolphins shut down the USC Upstate Spartans on Jan. 13, 2011. In that game, the Spartans shot 16-of-57 (.281) and suffered a 57-47 overtime defeat.

- Javon Dawson had career highs in minutes (36), rebounds (13) and assists (five). The 13 rebounds were the most by a Dolphins player this season.

- In his return from injury, Jarvis Haywood’s 18 points led the team in scoring. That is the fifth time this season he has accomplished the feat.

- RJ Slawson set a career high with 25 minutes played.

- Josh Murray set a new career best with four points; knocking down his only field goal attempt as well as both free throws he was awarded.

- Vince Martin scored a career-high 15 points, besting the 13 points he had in the season opener at Florida State on Nov. 8.