SPARTANBURG, Fla. – It was an exciting one at the Hodge Center and a buzzer beater made the difference. The Jacksonville University women's basketball team met USC Upstate Thursday night and after tying the contest on four separate occasions in the final minutes, the decision came down to the last second.
Stalled at 64-64 with 25 seconds remaining, Upstate advanced the ball down court and called a timeout. When Sharmayne Edwards missed a jump shot with four seconds on the clock, the crowd braced itself for overtime until Shelby Hicks grabbed the offensive rebound and served as Upstate's hero with the last second shot. In the end, the Spartans earned the victory by a score of 66-64.
"We got better tonight," said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "I had two freshmen that stepped up. I know Kayla Gordon has been playing really well but she did some things tonight that showed incredible growth and so did Brandi Buie."
"We just told them to attack and to play to win. Defense is the engine to our offense and it allowed us to get out and get some baskets in transition. I think if you want to win on the road you have to hit free throws. We missed 11 tonight and to me that's the game."
Coach McCuin yelled attack and the Dolphins powered their way to the basket looking to draw contact and sink the shot. There weren't any and-1 opportunities to start the contest but the Fins went 7-for-10 from the free throw line to trail 10-7 with 11:50 on the clock.
Upstate padded its lead to 14-7 before Briggs maneuvered her way to the rim for a layin, JU's first basket from the floor, just under the 10-minute mark. In 17 minutes of action, the Dolphins made three shots from the floor and none more crucial than Reddick's three pointer with 3:04 remaining in the frame. The trey started a 6-2 run and nearing the horn, Buie trekked coast-to-coast for a layup as the Dolphins entered intermission down, 28-25.
JU remained on the Spartans' tails for a majority of the second frame and things got interesting with 5:45 on the clock when back-to-back three-pointers from Reddick closed the Dolphin deficit to 58-56.
Free throws were all either team could put on the board for the next two minutes before Brown tied the contest at 60-all with 3:51 left in regulation.
After trading baskets the entire half, Briggs broke the trend on a jumper with 2:27 on the clock to give JU its first lead, 62-60. A minute later, Brittany Starling, Upstate's leading scorer on the night, tied the contest for the fourth time and then gave the Spartans a 64-62 edge with 35 seconds remaining.
Buie finished the night with her second double-digit game of the season and unsuspecting of the opposition, it would be her the Dolphins relied on to close the game. She recorded her 10th point on a layin to tie the ballgame for one final time at 64-all. There was just 25 seconds left on the clock at that point.
Hicks' buzzer beater capped a solid outing for the senior who scored all nine of her points in the second frame.
"There was a sense of togetherness tonight and a sense of fight," continued McCuin. "The record doesn't show it but we have been getting better every game. We were able to do what we had to do for 49 minutes and 56 seconds. Someone has to win and lose and we lost but we are definitely going to take things from this and move forward."
Jacksonville continues the road trip on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Kennesaw State. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.