Women’s basketball falls to Belmont, 51-45
Freshman guard Ashanti Williams
Freshman guard Ashanti Williams
The Dolphins had their opportunities to start the conference season with a win but another cold shooting second half was their downfall as the JU women’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaker to Belmont, 51-45, Thursday evening in the Atlantic Sun Conference opener at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

JU (2-4, 0-1) fell to 7-2 at the Downtown Arena and 1-9 in A-Sun openers after shooting .279 from the floor, including a dismal .118 (4-34) in the second half. The Dolphins shot .481 in the first half, including a 10-0 run to start the contest, and used 12 fast-break points to build a 29-24 lead at the break.

BU (4-2, 1-0) won the turnover battle (16-17) and tallied game highs in blocks (8) and steals (7) to run its all-time record to 11-2 over the Dolphins.

Trailing 45-43, JU tied the game with a jumper by senior guard Regina Omoite with 1:39 remaining but Cacy Burtnett hit a pair of free throws with 59 seconds left to give BU a 47-45 lead. After a missed jumper and a foul by JU, Amber Rockwell hit a running jumper from the left side of the paint with 14 seconds left to put the Bruins up 49-45. After turnover by the Dolphins, Burtnett hit a pair of free throws to put the contest away.

“We came out fired up to start the game and we did a great job of jumping on them early,” said JU head coach Jill Dunn. “In the second half, it was a completely different story because we couldn’t establish any kind of rhythm. We played good defense but the opportunities in the open floor weren’t there because we didn’t cause any turnovers. Without the opportunity to run, we started pressing and forcing shots in the half court set. We need to find a way to execute for an entire game if we want to get back on track.”

Senior guard Virginia Gregoire led the Dolphins with 11 points while senior guard DaVina Hamilton added eight points, five assists and three steals. Junior forward Crystal Grable finished with five points and career highs in rebounds (11) and blocks (5). Omoite chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists. Freshman guard Ashanti Williams added a season-high seven points.

Burtnett finished with a game-high 18 points after connecting on 5-of-9 shots, including a 3-of-6 effort from beyond the arc. Jessica Bobbitt added 14 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks and two steals for the Bruins.

In the first half, JU jumped out to an early 10-0 lead after a jumper by Hamilton (15:34) but the Bruins used a 16-6 run to even the contest with a layup by LaWanna Holiday (7:13). Gregoire answered with a 3-pointer at the 6:51 mark to give JU a 19-16 lead and the Dolphins would continue from there with a 6-2 run to make it 27-18 with a jumper by junior forward Desarae Johnson (3:29). The Bruins answered with a 4-0 run to cut the margin to 27-22 with 2:07 left but both teams would trade baskets to end the half to give JU a 29-24 advantage.

In the second half, JU increased its lead to 31-24 with a jumper by Hamilton but Belmont answered back with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 31-29 on a 3-pointer by Burtnett (17:07). Both teams would trade baskets until the Bruins tied the contest (33-33) with a jumper by Bobbitt at the 14:04 mark. From there both teams would battle through four more ties until a free throw by Burtnett game the Bruins a 44-42 lead with 3:51 left.

The Dolphins will host their next A-Sun contest on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Lipscomb as JU looks to “White Out” Swisher Gymnasium. The contest, which is the first of a doubleheader with the JU men, can be seen live on as part of ASun.TV.