JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville made a season-high 29 free throws and used back-to-back conventional three-point plays late in overtime to hold off USC Upstate, 75-69, on Monday evening inside Historic Swisher Gymnasium. With the win, the Dolphins take sole possession of the No. 2-seed for the upcoming Atlantic Sun Conference (A-Sun) Women's Basketball Tournament with Saturday's home contest against North Florida at 7 p.m. ET being the only game left in the regular season.
Jacksonville (18-10, 10-3 A-Sun) coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin noted Monday's contest had the feel of a postseason affair. It definitely had the excitement of postseason drama with one tie and four lead changes taking place in the final 32 seconds of regulation and overtime.
USC Upstate (18-10, 9-4 A-Sun) erased a 16-point, second-half deficit and sent the game into overtime when a Raven Jefferson steal turned into an A'lexxus Davis layup with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, the Dolphins regained the upper hand for good, 70-68, with 1:18 on the clock in the extra period when Brandi Buie went coast-to-coast for a layup and was fouled. Her three-point play was followed by a Kayla Gordon fastbreak layup and free throw that stretched Jacksonville's lead to five with 26 seconds to go.
"USC Upstate is a very good team, one that is very experienced," McPhee-McCuin said. "This was our second overtime game of this season, and this time we responded in a manner that showed we learned from the last overtime loss (against Florida Gulf Coast). I think it's a testament to how tough we are. We never lost our cool despite the run Upstate was making. We found a way to persevere."
Monday's slugfest featured a combined 50 fouls called and 59 free throw attempts. Three Spartans fouled out, while another seven players between the two teams had three fouls or more.
"When the game got to five fouls (per player) and into the double bonus, we wanted to get to the foul line, so we were really aggressive, especially when they played us in man," McPhee-McCuin said. "We had opportunities to get to the paint, and I was proud of our team for making the free throws."
The Dolphins finished 29-of-35 from the charity stripe and made five more free throws than USC Upstate attempted (17-of-24). Jacksonville turned 22 Spartan turnovers into 22 points.
The Green and White posted 32 points in the paint and as many bench points, with most of the damage coming from Christin Mercer, who finished with a season-high 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and an 8-of-12 effort from the line to lead three Dolphins in double-figures.
"Merce was phenomenal tonight," McPhee-McCuin said. "She had really been working hard up to this game. I'm really proud of her because she had to push through."
Reddick and Blue were each 5-of-5 from the charity stripe, while Brown was 6-of-8.
Kimberly Dawkins blocked three shots in the victory. Blue tied a season-high with four steals. Blue and Dawkins each pulled down five boards.
USC Upstate's Brittany Clancy posted a team-high 21 points, with three of her four made treys coming after the 2:25 mark of the fourth quarter that helped her team overcome an 11-point deficit in the period. Travonda Haddock recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Kristen Dickerson had 11 points.
The Dolphins opened up an 11-point edge after the first quarter on 50-percent shooting and led 30-20 at halftime. Jacksonville's largest advantage, 38-22, came midway through the third quarter after two Briona Brown free throws.