MACON, Ga. – From here on out, the name of the game is survive and advance. The Jacksonville University men’s basketball team (12-17, 8-10 Atlantic Sun) begins the Atlantic Sun Tournament on Tuesday night, battling the Mercer Bears (23-8, 14-4 A-Sun) in a rematch of the regular season finale on Saturday, which Mercer won, 69-55. This is the eighth time in program history that the Dolphins have ended the regular season against an opponent, only to turn around and meet them again in the next game. In the three previous times that JU has lost that regular season matchup (as they did this season), the Dolphins have won the conference tournament rematch. Tip-off from Mercer is set for Tuesday night at 7 p.m., with coverage available through ESPN3 or on 92.5 FM with Voice of the Dolphins Scott Manze on the call.
In spite of the 14-point difference at the end of Mercer’s win on Saturday, Jacksonville was actually within two points with less than six minutes remaining. If not for a sequence of offensive rebounds that allowed the Bears to go on a 6-0 run, the game could have very well gone down to the wire. The Dolphins did a very good job of bottling up Mercer’s leading scorer, Langston Hall. Hall was held to one field goal in the contest, and only managed to score nine points in the game because he hit seven-of-eight free throws late. Turnovers were a key difference however. Jacksonville turned it over 21 times, a number of them on debatable traveling violations.
No matter what factors were working against them on Saturday, JU will have to find a way to get its offense in gear against the Bears. Having played two games against every conference team, Jacksonville averaged at least 73.5 points per game against every opponent but one. In the two matchups with Mercer, the Dolphins have scored 52.0 points per game. That includes a .330 field goal percentage and a .225 average from behind the three-point arc. Jarvis Haywood led the Dolphins in the last game with 13 points, hitting 3-of-6 from deep. J.R. Holder added 10 points off the bench, while Javon Dawson and Vince Martin each had nine.
With a win, Jacksonville would move into the Atlantic Sun semifinals, to be played on March 6. The Dolphins would go on the road to face the winner of the USC Upstate-North Florida quarterfinal.