Strong Second Half Lifts Dolphins to 5-0 ASUN Start

Strong Second Half Lifts Dolphins to 5-0 ASUN Start

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A big third quarter kicked off a decisive second half as Jacksonville University women's basketball earned its sixth-straight win and its 11th victory in the past 12 games with a 71-45 decision at USC Upstate, Monday evening at G.B. Hodge Center.

The win marks the Dolphins' fourth 5-0 start in the ASUN Conference in five years under head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin.

"Just being in the present right now, I'm grateful for the win," exclaimed McCuin. "We did not play our best basketball tonight, but defensively we did. As long as our defense is on, we have a chance to win basketball games and that's what we decided to put our energy into. It was a total group effort, I'm really proud of this team and there are truly no ceilings."

Jasmyn Brown's 19 points led all scorers and marks her fourth-straight game in double figures. Brandi Buie posted her second career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Kayla Gordon joined Buie as the pair recorded five steals each. Gordon finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds.

Jacksonville (15-5, 5-0 ASUN) went on a 6-0 run down the stretch in the first quarter to erase a two-point deficit after adjusting to USC Upstate's stifling 2-3 zone defense. A triple from the top of the arc by La'Karis Salter, followed by a jumper and made free throw from Buie put the Dolphins up 10-9 at the end of the quarter.

Tied at 13 with 7:34 to go before halftime, the Dolphins used a 7-0 run behind Salter's second three-pointer and a completed and-one from Alexis Burns to take a 20-13 lead with 5:03 to go.

A pair of layups from USC Upstate (6-14, 1-4 ASUN) cut Jacksonville's lead to three, but the Dolphins persisted defensively and forced the Spartans' second shot clock violation of the half with 2:09 to play. A Gordon layup with 55 seconds to go gave the Dolphins a 27-22 advantage heading into the locker room.

Added McCuin, "In the beginning, we were so pumped up … we wore ourselves out. This group is such a fun group; they want to do so well. They want it right now; that's this generation and it doesn't work like that. We have to take our time on the offensive end. At halftime, we talked about the things that we needed to do. We were just juiced up and it didn't work well for us; we're more of an even keel team. We're learning, it's a road win and we're just happy."

Taking that advice back onto the floor, Jacksonville's offense exploded as the Dolphins outscored the Spartans 44-23 in the second half.

Impressive passing from Lindsay John helped swing the momentum definitively in the Dolphins' favor as John found Gordon alone under the basket at the 8:04 mark and later dished to Naqaiyyah Teague through traffic with 5:27 remaining. By the end of the quarter, the Dolphins outscored the Spartans 26-11 and extended its lead to 53-33.

Buie and Jasmyn Brown's combined 12 points in the fourth quarter accounted for over half of JU's 18 points, while a 6-0 run through the remaining 3:02 put the game out of reach for the Dolphins' final 71-45 advantage.

Michaela Gibbons and Riley Popplewell led the Spartans with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Popplewell added a team-high seven rebounds.

The Dolphins close out the three-game road swing on Saturday, Jan. 26 at FGCU as the teams battle for the top of the ASUN. Opening tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.