UNF Closes Strong to Claim River City Rumble
Vince Martin (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)
Vince Martin (Photo Courtesy of Skip Tapp)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The River City Rumble rarely fails to live up to the hype, and Friday night was no different inside Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena as the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team did battle with North Florida. The Ospreys threatened to blow the game open early on, but the Dolphins stormed back to take control for a good portion of the second half. In the end, a scoring drought of nearly three-and-a-half minutes late in the game did in Jacksonville (9-16, 5-9 Atlantic Sun), and UNF (14-13, 8-6 A-Sun) emerged with a 79-74 victory.

The Dolphins took a couple minutes to get their act together on offense, but once they did, they reeled off 11 straight points to take an 11-4 lead. RJ Slawson started the run with a pair of free throws and ended it with a pair at the line. In between, Jarvis Haywood scored inside, Vince Martin jumped a passing lane and broke away for a jam and Javon Dawson canned an open look from long range.

That seven-point lead was as much of a cushion as JU would have all night. A Travis Wallace dunk with less than eight minutes remaining until the half capped a stretch of eight minutes in which the Ospreys outscored JU 30-10. Jacksonville used a timeout and was able to recover as the clock ticked towards halftime. A Martin jumper inside the final minutes brought the half to a close with the Dolphins trailing only by nine, 43-34.

A well-executed play on the first possession of the second half allowed Dawson to duck in on the block for an open layup, cutting the lead to seven. It would take a little while for Jacksonville to fully seize the momentum back from UNF however. Beau Beech knocked in a three-pointer with 17:00 on the clock – part of his game-high 21 points – opening up North Florida’s biggest lead of the second half at 52-40. Dawson answered back on the other end with his second triple of the night though, and that kickstarted a 24-7 response from the Dolphins to take a five point lead, 64-59, with less than 10 minutes remaining.

At the center of the JU rally were freshmen J.R. Holder and Marcel White. The breakout performances from each of them have become a common occurrence as the season has progressed, and they combined for 15 of the 24 points in that stretch to help Jacksonville climb back on top.

North Florida wasn’t about to go quietly, and five straight from Beech and Demarcus Daniels tied the score at 70-70 as the game reached its final media timeout with 3:46 to play. Out of the break, Keith McDougald drove inside and met a brick wall of North Florida defenders, but scooped a pass to Slawson who threw down to put JU ahead, 72-70, with 3:30 to go. Back on the other end, a loose ball after a long-range miss from Dallas Moore pinged out of bounds and allowed UNF to retain possession. Given a second opportunity, Beech got a sliver of daylight off a curl screen and connected on his fifth trey of the night to put North Florida back up by one, 73-72. The Ospreys would never trail again.

Though Jacksonville had three chances down the stretch to lead or tie, nothing would fall for the Dolphins and UNF hit six of seven free throws in the final two minutes. It wasn’t until a Martin layup with two seconds remaining that JU broke its scoring drought.

Holder and Martin tied for team-high honors on the night with 16 points. Dawson added 14 while Slawson had 10 rebounds and a game-high nine boards.

Jacksonville stays at home next weekend, facing East Tennessee State on Feb. 20 and USC Upstate on Feb. 22 as the Dolphins celebrate Senior Day. Each contest will be part of a doubleheader with women’s basketball preceding it.

Game Notes
- Jacksonville had co-scoring leaders for the first time this season as J.R. Holder and Vince Martin each had 16 points.

- Now at 1,128 points for his career, Keith McDougald has entered the top 20  on Jacksonville’s career scoring chart. He passed both Rex Morgan and Danny Pearson in the game.

- Holder set a season/career high of three steals. Including the 18 points he scored at Stetson on Feb. 9, the 34 points are the best back-to-back total of his freshman season.

- Javon Dawson hit a pair of 3-pointers in a game for the first time in his career. He also matched a career best with three steals.

- Martin’s 16 points matched a career high set previously against Kennesaw State on Jan. 1.

- Jarvis Haywood tied a career high with three steals.