SPARTANBURG, S.C. – 8-13 shooting from deep by Tanner Rubio and Darien Fernandez weren't enough for Jacksonville University (13-7, 1-2 ASUN) Saturday afternoon against USC Upstate (12-8, 2-1 ASUN). The Spartans outlasted the first-half sharpshooting from the Dolphins and took 19 free throws in the second half to take down Jacksonville 73-66.
"Give Upstate a lot of credit. They really increased their offensive efficiency in the second half," said Head Coach Tony Jasick. "They lived at the free throw line in the second half, and that's on us. We did not defend with the sense of urgency that you need to in order to win games at this level."
Jacksonville's defense in the first four-plus minutes of the second half was suffocating. The Spartans hit just one of their first six attempts, and JU quickly grew their six-point first half lead to 12 points, 45-33, with 14:13 left. But Michael Buchanan, who had just six points to that point, went to work at the post and scored five quick points to cut into the lead. Buchanan's efforts got the rest of the offense clicking, fueling a 40-21 run by the Spartans over the final 14 minutes of the game. The key to that resurgence was three-point shooting. In the first half Jacksonville was 8-13 from deep, and in the second half the Dolphins were just 2-11 from beyond the arc.
The ball tipped to Upstate in the opening play, and the Spartans quickly converted that into a 7-2 lead by making their first three field goal attempts. In the first 11 minutes of the half USC Upstate made nine of its 15 attempts, and led by as much as 10 points, 20-10. But a perfect 5-5 performance from three by Rubio and a harsh 1-3-1 zone defense got the Dolphins back in the game. Over the final nine minutes of the period JU made 10 of its final 16 attempts, and the Spartans made just three of their final 14 attempts. At the half the Dolphins led 37-31.
- Rubio was 5-5 from three. The last time a Dolphin went 5-5 from three was November 18, 2016, when Demontrez Austin went 5-5 against Youngstown State.
- J.R Holder followed up his career-best 39 points on Thursday with another 20 points on Saturday. The senior from Atlanta, Ga., is averaging 24 ppg in ASUN Conference play, tops in the league.
- Fernandez joined Holder and Rubio in double-figure scoring with 14 points. seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
- Five Dolphins (Devin Harris, Antwon Clayton, Fernandez, Holder, and Rubio) each had three assists.