JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Better free throw shooting and more second-chance points helped Eastern Kentucky University (6-4) escape Historic Swisher Gym with an 80-76 win over Jacksonville University on Wednesday.
"Give Eastern Kentucky a lot of credit. The second half they completely changed the tide of the game. We couldn't get a stop, and they then made us play in traffic offensively. They did a really good job of creating turnovers and forcing us to take bad shoots, which led to them getting in transition and getting some easy baskets tonight," said Head Coach Tony Jasick.
Eastern Kentucky scored first in the second half, pulling within two points at 37-35, but then went scoreless on its next four possessions. Over that time JU stretched its lead back out to six, 41-36. But EKU kept chipping away, and tied it up 48-48 with 13:42 remaining. A deep three by Darius Dawkins put the Dolphins back out front, but the Colonels were able to knot it up again a few points later, 53-53, on an old-fashioned three-point play. Jacksonville took the lead again on yet another deep three from Dawkins, 56-53, and then the lead ping-ponged between the two teams before Eastern Kentucky took the lead for good, 67-66, on a free throw from Marlon Adams. The Colonels would stretch the lead to as much as eight with just under four minutes left, but the Dolphins kept it close down the stretch, coming back within three on a layup by Antwon Clayton, 77-74. Eastern closed the game with three clutch free throws, winning 80-76.
After a bit of a scuffle, the opening tip went to Eastern Kentucky. Jacksonville forced the first of seven Colonel turnovers on that first possession, and then scored on a transition layup from J.R. Holder. The Dolphins scored on five of its first eight attempts to jump out to a 12-11 lead early, but Eastern Kentucky used a 6-0 run to take the lead with 10:59 left in the period. Jacksonville fought back with a 9-2 run, and led 24-19 with 8:01 left. The two teams traded buckets the rest of the period, and at the half JU led 37-32 on the strength of 10 first-half points from Darien Fernandez.
- For the first time this season Holder did not score in double digits. The senior from Atlanta, Ga., had scored at least 10 points in nine consecutive games. He now has 989 points in his career, just 11 away from scoring 1,000.
- This is the first time this season Jacksonville has lost when scoring at least 70 points. Other firsts of the night included losing when leading at the half, losing at home, and losing in white uniforms.
- Fernandez led the Dolphins in scoring with 19 points. Harris had 16 points, and Cody Helgeland had 12.