FRIDAY, MARCH 07, 2008
Men's hoops run into championship game, ousting Gardner-Webb

March 7, 2008

Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The JU men's basketball team jumped out early and never looked back, earning a spot in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference championship game with an 89-80 win over Gardner-Webb.

Ben Smith led three Dolphins in double figures with 27 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor and 13-of-17 from the free throw line.

The Dolphins (18-12) got a double-double from Marcus Allen, his sixth of the season. The junior center scored 17 points and pulled down 11 boards, knocking down 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

"This is just another step in the process," said JU head coach Cliff Warren. "We've made two of the three steps we wanted to take, but we know that we haven't won anything yet."

With the win, JU advanced to the conference title game for the first time since 1989, when the sixth-seeded Dolphins had two upsets before falling to South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference finals.

Jacksonville put together one of its best halves of the season in the first 20 minutes, amassing a 19-point lead with a dominating 16-3 run to start the game, sparked by a pair of Smith 3-pointers.

The half came to a conclusion with Andre McMillan's heave from half court going in to give the Dolphins the big lead at the intermission.

How dominating was the first half? Along with the 19-point lead, JU hit 16-of-28 from the floor, had a 2-to-1 advantage on the boards and was 10-of-11 at the free throw line.

To top it off, JU never let the always dangerous Bulldogs back into the game in the second half. The Dolphins pushed the lead to 22 six minutes into the half and were able to cruise into the finals with the win.

Smith's 27 points is his second highest total of the season and the sixth time he has scored more than 20 in a game.

Lehmon Colbert, coming off of a 0-for-10 shooting performance in the quarterfinals, scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Allen's big night moved him within 13 points of becoming the 24th player in school history to join the 1,000-point club.

Gardner-Webb got a game-high 29 points from A-Sun "Player of the Year" Thomas Sanders, 15 from Grayson Flittner and 13 from A-Sun "Freshman of the Year" Nate Blank.

Saturday's championship game will be televised on ESPN2, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. (ET). The game can also be heard on the radio, as 1010XL will carry the broadcast.