JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University women's basketball lit things up at the free throw line down the stretch and four Dolphins recorded double figure performances as JU defeated Stetson, 73-63, Thursday evening at Swisher Gymnasium.
The victory sets the stage for Jacksonville's (16-6, 6-1 ASUN) rematch with Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday – this time in front of a home crowd – as the teams clash once more with sole possession of first place in the ASUN Conference on the line.
A trio of three-pointers at clutch moments from Brandi Buie paved the way as she led all scorers with 17 points. Shakayla Nevitt neared her single-game high with 15, while Kayla Gordon and Jasmyn Brown finished with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Gordon and Buie controlled the boards with 9 and 7 rebounds, respectively.
"Our guards really played composed. I was really pleased with Shakyla's presence this game offensively and defensively. Everybody just coming out, playing and being aggressive – I was really happy for that," exclaimed Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "I look forward to the opportunity for us to continue to grow and take on our next opponent."
Down 32-30 at the half, the Dolphins came out on fire in the third quarter, shot 53 percent from the floor, and outpaced the Hatters 25-12 to take the lead and not look back. Just 10 seconds into the quarter, Naqaiyyah Teague tied things up with a jumper from the top of the key to ignite a 7-0 run.
Jacksonville led by as many as 15 in the third, as a Buie triple (2:28) and a pair of layups (1:46, 0:52) from Gordon surged the Dolphins ahead 54-39.
An 8-0 run from Stetson (13-10, 4-3 ASUN) in the fourth quarter, beginning at the 5:04 mark, brought the visitors back within five, 59-54, with 3:13 to play. From that point on, the Dolphins went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line to stay a step ahead of the Hatters. Those free throws proved key, with JU's final margin of victory of 73-63 at the horn.
Jacksonville finished the game 21-of-25 at the line, as Buie (6-for-6) and Jasmyn Brown (4-for-4) combined for 10 of those made free throws.
Drawing comparisons to last weekend's trip up at FGCU, McCuin expressed her gratification of the Dolphins' performance at the line tonight. "We felt like we had an opportunity to beat FGCU, but we lost it at the free throw line. For us to have an opportunity to make up for that and focus on it, I was really pleased. I'm just happy."
The Dolphins countered an early 7-0 deficit in the opening minutes of the game with a 7-0 run of their own. A pair of Nevitt three-pointers at 3:42 and 2:05 led the Dolphins to an 18-17 lead after the first period.
Both teams traded points in the second, as Stetson (13-10, 4-3 ASUN) went on a 9-2 run and led by six, 30-24, with 2:09 to go in the period. Back-to-back three-pointers from La'Karis Salter (1:36) and Buie (0:48) brought the Dolphins within two, 32-30, heading into halftime.
Adding insight on the first half, McCuin stated, "We weren't defending; for some reason we got caught in this offensive game. We have to defend at a high level – that's what we're about. We are the number one defensive team in the conference for a reason."
Shania Meertens led Stetson with 15 points, while Megan Vincent added a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Dolphins return to Swisher Gym Saturday, Feb. 3 when they play host to Florida Gulf Coast at 1 p.m.