DELAND, Fla. – It was a familiar tune on Saturday afternoon for the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team on the road at Stetson. The Dolphins didn’t so much lose as they just ran out of time. Down 51-27 to the Hatters with less than 18 minutes remaining, Jacksonville (9-15, 5-8 Atlantic Sun) cranked up the pressure and made Stetson (7-17, 5-7 A-Sun) wilt, but couldn’t come all the way back as the clock worked against JU in the end.
Foul trouble affected Stetson right from the very beginning of the contest, as leading scorer Willie Green was sent to the bench with a pair of personal fouls less than two minutes in. Despite his almost immediate absence, the Hatters opened up a lead with solid ball movement, stretching the JU defense and finding cracks to exploit in the lane. Stetson had assists on 10 of its 15 first half field goals and scored 22 points in the paint. Picking up the slack in Green’s place were Raymone Andrews and Brian Pegg. Andrews scored 11 points in the opening half and Pegg added 10 points and eight rebounds to help negate the loss. When Aaron Graham hit on a three-pointer in the final 30 seconds of the half, the Hatters were able to build a 41-24 lead entering the break.
Green was re-inserted into the lineup to open the second half and Stetson immediately went to him. He worked hard down on the block and came away with the first five points of the half on a pair of layups and a free throw, putting the Hatters ahead, 46-24. Less than a minute later, Green would have to sit yet again, as the Dolphins drew a pair of fouls on the forward and put him just one away from disqualification. With him parked on the bench for the foreseeable future, Jacksonville would explode to get back into the contest.
The score was 51-27 after Kyle Sikora slammed home a feed from Andrews and the Dolphins called timeout to slow the momentum building from the home team. Subbing in out of the timeout was J.R. Holder, and he immediately hit a three-pointer from the right corner to stem the tide. He then added the next four points for a personal 7-0 run, and Jarvis Haywood got in on the act by jumping a passing lane and knocking down a pair from the line after a foul. Sam Hunt and Holder followed that with consecutive threes and the Hatter lead was reduced to 51-42, a 15-0 run over five minutes of action.
Andrews put Stetson back up by double-digits with a three-pointer, making it 63-53 with 5:10 remaining, but Jacksonville was now rising to the challenge. Vince Martin answered with a trey on the other end, and RJ Slawson followed with a block on one end and a tip-in bucket on the other to make it 63-58. Green was back in the game now, and he scored on a putback of his own miss to make the lead seven again, until Javon Dawson and Holder hit four straight free throws to cut the Stetson advantage to 65-62 with 2:45 to play.
Stetson would keep the lead at three until the final minute. With the Hatters holding possession and time winding down on the shot clock, Graham had to force up a three-point attempt that rimmed out. Green was banging down low though, and a tie-up was whistled with Stetson retaining possession with 40 seconds to go. Martin had to foul and Andrews hit one of two at the stripe to make it a four-point game, 70-66. Needing to work quickly, Marcel White put up a three-pointer but it hit back iron and fell away. Green got the board and again hit one of two. Holder scored on the other end to make it a one-possession game at 71-68, but only 11 seconds remained and Andrews iced the game with two free throws after a JU foul.
“I think the second half was indicative of how we can play,” said Head Coach Cliff Warren. “Unfortunately we started out cold and had to deal with a lot of adversity to recover from that. If we do a better job of hitting free throws and finishing those types of plays, we’ll have more energy and play better defense.”
Holder scored all of his team-high 18 points after the break. Dawson added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Slawson notched his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 boards.
Jacksonville returns home next week to host the River City Rumble with North Florida on Feb. 14 at 7:00 p.m. from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
- Jacksonville’s nine turnovers were its third-lowest total of the season. All three times that the Dolphins have had less than 10 turnovers in a game have come away from home.
- For the first time this season, both Jarvis Haywood and Keith McDougald were held to single-digits in scoring in a game in which each played.
- J.R. Holder’s 18 points were a career high, surpassing the 16 he had at UCF on Dec. 17, 2013.
- With 36 minutes played, Vince Martin matched a career high set previously against Samford on Dec. 20, 2013.
- Haywood matched a career high with seven assists, set previously against Kennesaw State on Jan. 1, 2014.
- RJ Slawson matched his career high of 12 rebounds, set previously against Florida Gulf Coast on Jan. 11, 2014.
- Slawson has had at least two blocks in 11 of his 24 games for the Dolphins. At 1.5 blocks per game, he ranks second in the Atlantic Sun in the category.