Women's hoops hosts A-Sun leader ETSU on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Junior forward Crystal Grable
Junior forward Crystal Grable
After moving into a tie for second place in the A-Sun standings, the JU women’s basketball team (11-9, 7-3) will open its homestand with a showdown against conference leader ETSU (11-7, 9-1) at Swisher Gymnasium on Thursday at 7 p.m. The contest can be seen live on A-Sun.TV by logging on to JU trails in the all-time series to ETSU, 7-1, which includes an 86-77 loss at the Memorial Center on Jan. 3. In the last meeting at Swisher Gymnasium, ETSU led from start to finish in an 80-74 win on Jan. 28, 2008. The loss ending a program-record 17 straight home wins for JU.

Dolphins to “Pack the House”
If it’s not enticing enough to witness the Dolphins putting its up-tempo style on display, then throw in a battle against first place ETSU for the NCAA’s “Pack the House” competition. As part of the event, JU has invited local elementary and middle schools, women’s clubs, retirement communities, businesses and other organizations to set a new program record for attendance and compete against other schools across the nation. Among the promotions for the game will be free pom-poms to the first 500 fans, a raffle for basketballs autographed by the JU women’s team, a raffle for Parent-Daughter Fan’s of the Game Court Side Seats, free giveaways on every seat and an autograph session with the team and Dunkin the Dolphin immediately after the game. The NCAA "Pack the House" competition was designed to help grow the sport of women's basketball and build upon the already existing fan base. The challenge of the event is for each participating school to set an attendance record. NCAA member schools will compete against schools in their own conference as well as all Division I schools for a chance to be the 2009 NCAA Women's Basketball "Pack the House Challenge" Champion. The NCAA will select thirty-two winning institutions (one from each of the 31 Division I conferences and one independent) based on creative marketing strategies, and sellouts or the largest percentage increase from the previous year's single-game record attendance. The marketing staffs of the winnings school will receive various prizes and the NCAA will make a donation to a non-profit organization on behalf of the 32 winners. Additionally, one grand prize winner will be selected from the pool of 32 winners.

Dolphin notables
With 43 points allowed to Stetson, JU has now held an opponent under 50 points for the fourth time this season (FIU – 43, George Mason – 49, at UNF – 42) which ranks second in program history. The program record of five was set by the 2007-08 squad [Bethune-Cookman – 45, Coastal Carolina – 48, at UNF – 38, at Lipscomb – 48, vs. Stetson – 47]...against Stetson, senior guard DaVina Hamilton had a career nigh with 24 points by shooting a career-best 10-of-16 from the floor while also collecting seven rebounds and dishing out four assists…senior guard Virginia Gregoire added nine points, a game-high five assists and four rebounds…senior guard Regina Omoite and junior forward Desarae Johnson each chipped in with eight points and five rebounds…against FGCU, JU had its season-high five-game winning streak snapped…Gregoire tallied a season-high 23 points after connecting on 9-of-17 shots, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc…Hamilton added 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals…junior center Lynsey Paschal finished with a game-high nine rebounds and six points.

Defense looking for another JU record
Another look at how well JU is playing defense this season can simply be compared the teams of the past. This season, the Dolphins have held an opponent under 50 points in four games: FIU - 43 (11/20), George Mason - 49 (11/25), at UNF - 42 (1/15) and at Stetson - 43 (1/24). The number this season ranks second in program history, behind the total of five in 2007-08: (Bethune-Cookman – 45 (11/16), Coastal Carolina – 48 (12/8), at UNF – 38 (1/19), at Lipscomb – 48 (2/9) and vs. Stetson – 47 (3/5). In her five years with JU, head coach Jill Dunn has registered 15 games in which her squad held an opponent under 50 points. Prior to that, the Dolphins had only accomplished the feat five times in five seasons.

JU puts the clamps on
Despite its early struggles to score, the JU defense is among the best in the Atlantic Sun Conference. JU is first in the conference in turnover margin (+4.16), second in scoring defense (58.4 ppg) and blocked shots (4.58 bpg), third in steals (10.16 spg), fourth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.283) and fifth in rebounding defense (38.7) and field goal percentage defense (.391). JU has held its opponent to less than 60 points in 12-of-19 games and the opposition has shot less than .400 in nine of 19 games, including three consecutive games (Belmont, Lipscomb, UCF). In the last eight games, the Dolphins have held opponents to less than 60 points in five contests. Teams are also averaging 58.2 points, shooting 37 percent from the floor and are registering 22.6 turnovers per contest.

Little Rip Hamilton
Senior guard DaVina Hamilton is one of the three members of the senior class and has made a huge impact on the JU program’s recent success. A silent leader who does all of the little intangibles, Hamilton is already second in the JU single-season records for assists (126) and steals (67). She also surpassed fellow senior guard Virginia Gregoire for first on the JU career steals list (195) with five at Campbell. After struggling early in the season, Hamilton has emerged as the top scoring threat for the Dolphins and her career is blossoming at the right time. At South Carolina, she finished with 16 points to go with five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. At ETSU, she paced the squad with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field while also grabbing five rebounds and tallying three steals. In the week finale at USC Upstate, she finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a career high six steals to end a seven game road losing streak for JU. At Stetson, she took things to a new level by scoring a career-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor while also finishing with seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block while not committing a turnover. The team’s road warrior, she has been a terror in her last seven games away from Jacksonville by leading JU with 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and three steals per contest. Hamilton is trying to join the exclusive 1,000 point club before the end of the year and is 193 points off the pace. She also has her sights set on career marks, including rebounds, steals and assists.

Dolphins getting offensive
The Dolphins had a less than spectacular start to the 2008-09 season and a big part of that was their inability to put the ball in the basket. Through its first 11 games in which the squad went 5-6, JU shot 35 percent from the floor, 27.3 percent from beyond the arc, 70.5 percent from the free-throw line to average 55.7 points per game. Included in the Dolphins’ early winter was a 2-4 start to the year in which JU shot 32.4 percent from the field, 22.5 percent from beyond the arc and 68.1 percent from the line for an average of 50.5 points per contest. JU also put up its lowest scoring total in the Jill Dunn era with 43 points against Kansas State on Nov. 28 at Swisher Gymnasium. Lately, the Dolphins have gotten their offensive swagger back and it has led to a 6-2 record. During that span, JU is shooting 41.3 percent from floor, 33.1 percent from the 3-point line and 70 percent of its free throws to average 69.8 points per game. JU has also notched 70 points in five of eight games, including a season-best 78 points in back-to-back contests (USC Upstate, Mercer). The Dolphins also tallied 70 points in five consecutive games which was the second longest in program history. The longest being a seven-game stretch combining over two seasons (March 8-Nov. 23, 2008). In the conference rankings, JU has moved up in the standings in scoring offense (6th - 61.6 ppg), 3-point field-goal percentage (6th - 30.1) and field-goal percentage (7th - 37.8). The squad is also third in assists (14.47 apg) and offensive rebounds (15.68 rpg), fourth in free throw percentage (70.1) and fifth in 3-pointers made (4.58 tpg).

Taking care of the ball
One of the staples of a Jill Dunn program is winning the turnover battles. Now in her fifth season with the program, those numbers are beginning to ring true as the Dolphins set a program low for turnovers per contest last season. In her first year, JU averaged a program-record 17.1 turnovers per contest, compared to 19.0 by its opponents. In year two, the Dolphin’s finished with 18.8 turnovers per contest compared to 19.0 by their opponents. In 2006-07, JU led the A-Sun in turnover margin (+4.80) with an average of 18.3 turnovers per contest. The Dolphins also forced a conference-high 22.2 turnovers per game. Last year, the Dolphins finished the regular season leading the conference in turnover margin (+4.55) and were second in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.88). JU currently averages 16.7 turnovers per contest. JU opponents are averaging 21.3 turnovers per game. This year has followed the same tune as JU averages 17.8 turnovers per contest. Dolphin opponents are tallying an average of 21.9 miscues per game. In the conference rankings, JU ranks first with a +4.16 turnover margin and is second in assist/turnover ratio (0.81).