JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fifteen steals by Jacksonville University (13-9, 1-4 ASUN) and 20 turnovers by Kennesaw State (8-13, 2-3 ASUN) weren't enough for the Dolphins Saturday against the Owls; Kennesaw defeated Jacksonville 81-71 at Historic Swisher Gym.
"We've got to continue to improve our effort and energy on both ends. Give credit to Kennesaw; they made a ton of shots to create the separation in the first half. We weren't able to recover fully from that, but to our guys' credit I thought we competed coming out of the locker room and we made it a game late. We just couldn't make enough plays offensively and defensively late to give us a chance," said Head Coach Tony Jasick.
Kennesaw started the second half with a 9-2 run, increasing its lead to 25 points, 52-27, with 17:53 remaining. The Dolphins called a timeout, and Jasick got his players locked in. Over the next 10 minutes JU outscored Kennesaw 23-10, pulling within 12 points, 62-50. The run was fueled by four steals from J.R. Holder and Darien Fernandez, as well as 16 second-half points from Holder. The final eight minutes were incredibly close; JU outscored Kennesaw 21-19, and came as close as seven points, 73-66, with just over two minutes remaining. But the Owls closed the game with six free throws in a row, escaping with an 81-71 win over Jacksonville.
Jacksonville struck first, scoring on a transition basket from Fernandez after he stole the ball from the Owls. The senior point guard had five steals in the first half. The Dolphins led by as much as four points, 9-5, with 15:47 left in the period. Kennesaw responded with a 14-9 run to take a 19-18 lead with 9:13 left, but Jacksonville tied the game up on a three by Tanner Rubio and then retook the lead, 23-21, with a driving layup from J.R. Holder. That lead proved short-lived however; the Owls benefitted from several Dolphin offensive fouls to go on a 17-0 run, and led 43-25 at the end of the half.
- The 15 steals by the Dolphins were the most since Jacksonville had 18 against Florida Christian at home on December 3, 2012.
- Fernandez had seven of those steals, a new career best and the third-most in Dolphin history. His previous best of five steals came earlier this season against Middle Georgia State.
- Holder bounced back from a four-point effort Thursday with 24 points on Saturday. The senior from Atlanta, Ga., is averaging 20 points per game in ASUN Conference play.