SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2013
Men’s Basketball Concludes Non-Conference Play Against South Carolina State
RJ Slawson (Photo courtesy of Skip Tapp)
RJ Slawson (Photo courtesy of Skip Tapp)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville University men’s basketball team faces South Carolina State on Monday night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena at 7 p.m., and with it comes a chance to go into Atlantic Sun action on a high note. The Dolphins and Bulldogs each come in at 3-7 on the season, products of difficult early scheduling on both their parts. The game will be available to stream live on ASun.TV or you can catch it on the radio dial at 92.5 FM. Voice of the Dolphins Scott Manze will have the call of the action and Artis Gilmore will provide the color.

There’s no denying that Jacksonville has been nicked up at times this season. The Dolphins have had to trot out seven different starting units through their first 10 games. While the lack of continuity has had its drawbacks, the benefit has been the growth and production of some of the team’s newcomers. One player who has been making the most of his extended playing time is freshman Marcel White. Starting each of the last four games, White has put in about 25 minutes of action in each contest. In the two games in the past week, White shot 6-of-12 from the floor against both UCF and Samford, averaging 14.5 points. He also set new career marks with 28 minutes played and two steals on Friday facing the Bulldogs.

Javon Dawson has been in and out of the lineup as well, playing in seven contests up to this point. Returning on Tuesday at UCF, he has made a strong impression in the last two games, coming up just a point shy of his first double-double against the Knights with nine points and 10 rebounds. On Friday against Samford he left no doubt, setting season highs with 16 points and 11 boards while adding three steals in 34 minutes of work.

The winner of Monday’s game could very likely hinge on which team reverses an early-season trend. Jacksonville has given up an average of 83.5 points per game on the defensive end of the floor, a figure that ranks last in the Atlantic Sun. Opposite the Dolphins will be a below-average South Carolina State offense. Coming in averaging 65.1 points per game, the Bulldogs are in a tie for 313th nationally in scoring offense. Though they put up at least 83 points in wins against Voorhees and Coastal Carolina, they haven’t reached 70 points in any other game.  

Of course part of South Carolina State’s offensive woes can be attributed to its schedule. The Bulldogs have had road losses to Marshall, Michigan, Nebraska and Clemson to begin their year, and Clemson’s defense currently ranks as the stingiest in the country. The South Carolina State attack will flow through 6-11 forward Matthew Hezekiah. The Jacksonville native is the only Bulldog currently scoring in double figures (12.5 ppg) and his .558 field goal percentage also leads the team. Guard Adama Adams is second on the squad at 9.7 ppg and has a team-best 2.5 assists per game to his credit. Daryll Palmer paces the team on the glass, averaging 6.9 rebounds.

In five previous meetings between the two sides Jacksonville has a 4-1 series lead, but if the Dolphins need added motivation, they need look no further than last season. In a game in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State led by as much as 17, and held a 15-point lead with five minutes remaining before the Dolphins came all the way back to tie it in the final minute. On the last possession of the game, Adams directed the Bulldog offense but missed on a short jumper. Unfortunately, Hezekiah was in the right place at the right time, tipping in the miss for the game-winning bucket with less than two seconds to go.

Swisher Gym will play host to the first two A-Sun games of the season next week. The Dolphins will first meet Mercer on Dec. 30, then quickly turn around to welcome in Kennesaw State on Jan. 1. Each game will tip-off at 7 p.m.