JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The Jacksonville University women’s basketball used a high-octane second half to stun East Tennessee State, 62-57, on Thursday night.
“East Tennessee State is well coached,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “Anytime you win on the road you have to be tough and we have been challenging our girls about toughness for a long time now. We knew we needed to commit to the defensive end. When we were playing good basketball, we were defending at a high level.”
Sophomore forward Briona Brown directed JU’s offense with 15 points while freshman guard Sherranda Reddick added 14 points. Freshman center Jenny Vernet put up a career-high 12 points and senior forward Jade Cargill came off the bench to contribute 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Buccaneers grabbed the opening tip and quickly worked their way up to a 9-2 lead. However, the advantage wouldn’t last long as the Dolphins went on a 7-0 run which included two floaters from Vernet to tie the contest at 9-all (15:19).
The last 15 minutes of the frame captured 10 ties and two lead changes. The Dolphins went ahead for the first time, 29-28, when Cargill split a pair at the line with 2:53 remaining. The teams again traded baskets to close the half and with the ball in the hands of Reddick in the final 30 seconds, she tossed it up at the buzzer but saw the attempt rim out. The Fins entered the locker room down by two, 35-33.
With a 41-37 ETSU lead, two unanswered baskets with the latter coming on steal and a layup from Cargill tied the game at 41-41 (14:32). The question of the second half was similar to the first. Who was going to take ownership of the game?
“At halftime I told them ‘Look we are down by two. If we let them score and we score, we’ll lose by two. We have to consecutively get stops and that’s the only way we win”.
Brown provided JU with a 50-48 lead on an old-fashioned three point play at 9:29. The bucket ignited a 10-0 run in which JU held a 58-48 advantage (5:23). Shamauria Bridges ended the stretch with a layup and later ETSU closed the gap to six, 58-52, on free throws.
With less than two minutes left, the scoreboard read 59-55. The Bucs then began to foul JU to conserve the clock and the Dolphins went 3-for-4 from the charity strip. Pressure defense forced ETSU turnovers and the mishaps closed the door on a possible comeback.
Serena Clark led the Buccaneers with 18 points and eight rebounds and Bridges posted 10 points.
“I’m so proud of the girls; they truly bought in to the defensive game plan,” said McCuin. “These last four games are so important. We are taking it one game at a time and I felt like I saw my old team tonight. We just want to build on that.”
In the win, JU improves to 8-7 in the A-Sun and 11-15 overall while ETSU drops to 4-11 and 8-18.
The Dolphins continue their final road trip on Saturday, March 1 as they face USC Upstate at 2 p.m.