NEWARK, NJ – It takes grit and toughness to win on the road, and two nights after a disappointing first loss in ASUN Conference play, Jacksonville University men's basketball bounced back with a 63-61 win over NJIT on Saturday in the Wellness and Events Center.
"In every league, every team is good. At the end of the day, to go on the road and get a win, we're going to take it and run," said Head Coach Tony Jasick.
Jasick talked about playing with better energy and effort on the road, and bolstered by the return of senior Antwon Clayton to the starting lineup again after missing Thursday's game, JU used energy on the defensive end to limit NJIT to just 29 percent shooting in the first half. The Dolphins parlayed good defense into efficient offense, and a Tanner Rubio three-pointer extended the lead to 10, 25-15, with 6:46 left in the first half.
NJIT had nine home wins coming into the game, and showed some of its mojo in its new home, going on a 12-0 run over the next 4:01 to take a 27-25 lead.
JU was limited in personnel, as three starters were on the bench with three fouls, but the reserves came through. Radwan Bakkali and Cody Helgeland hit jumpers on back-to-back possessions, part of 18 bench points for the Dolphins, and JU led 29-27 at the half.
In the second half, Jacksonville took another big lead, and NJIT mounted another furious comeback. Devin Harris hit a layup as part of five straight points scored by the senior guard to extend JU's lead to double-figures again, 55-45, with 8:25 remaining.
NJIT had another run in them, this time scoring in a 9-2 advantage over the next 2:02, and it was tied at 59 at the under-four media timeout.
Junior Jace Hogan missed back-to-back shots before the stoppage, but his team went right back to him out of the timeout, and he answered, scoring his team-high 12th point of the game on a jump shot with 2:50 left that put JU up for good.
"It shows confidence in my team, our coaching staff and myself," said Hogan. "They were confident in me, even when I missed, to take shots."
NJIT got it within two, but could not find a way to tie it again, ending the game on a half court heave from Shyquan Gibbs that did not come close.
"I thought the biggest key was not turning the ball over in the second half," said Jasick.
JU had 11 turnovers at halftime, and only had four giveaways in the second half.
Jacksonville now has two road wins in league play, and at 4-1 in the conference, is all alone in second place three weeks into the conference schedule.
JU returns home to host Stetson Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at Swisher Gym.
- Jace Hogan finished in double-figure scoring for the 14th time this season. He had 12 points. Three other Dolphins finished with double-digit points, as JD Notae, Cody Helgeland and Jalyn Hinton all posted 10.
- Antwon Clayton picked up his 400th career rebound in spectacular fashion, cleaning up a missed three with a thunderous put-back slam.
- All eight players who appeared for JU scored.
- JU improved to 5-0 with the starting lineup of Harris, Notae, Hinton, Hogan and Clayton.
"We've got to go back to work Monday. We haven't done anything yet. We won one on the road, but we've got to keep working."
- Jace Hogan when asked how to build off of the road win