JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite making just five field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game, Jacksonville University (17-12, 5-7 ASUN) scrapped through a 79-78 win at Kennesaw State (12-16, 6-6 ASUN) on Thursday. Omar El Manasterly followed up a game-winning rebound last Saturday in the Dolphins' 76-73 win over NJIT with a game-winning basket with just eight seconds remaining on the clock.
"Give our guys credit. I thought we started the game pretty well defensively, forcing a lot of turnovers. In the second half, I thought Kennesaw did a great job of playing a lot more aggressively against the zone and it kinda put us on our heels for most of the second half. We were fortunate to make enough plays late to win the game," said Head Coach Tony Jasick.
Kennesaw chipped the lead down to two points early on a three from Nick Masterson, but red-hot shooting from beyond the arc helped JU build the lead back out eight, 50-42, with 15:19 left in the period. The Dolphins made four of their six three-point attempts in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Kennesaw's Aubrey Williams single-handedly kept the Owls in the game by scoring 10 points of an 18-11 run that shrunk the lead to just two points, 61-59, with 8:45 left.
Over the final eight minutes the Dolphins made just four field goals, but they came when it counted most. Marcel White hit a driving layup with 7:53 on the clock that stretched the Dolphins' lead to four, and Darien Fernandez sunk an acrobatic masterpiece around KSU's Williams and made the free throw to pull JU back within one, 67-66, with 636 remaining. Fernandez hit another two-pointer with just three minutes remaining to tie the game at 73-73, and El Manasterly's two came in transition with just eight seconds left, answering a Kendrick Ray two on the other end that had given the Owls a one-point lead. Ray missed the final shot as the clock expired, and JU won the game 79-78.
Free throw shooting down the stretch played a key role for both teams; JU made 12-17 at the line in the second half, and Kennesaw made 9-15.
Kennesaw State won the opening tip and quickly strung together a 10-2 run in the first three minutes. However, turnovers started to plague the Owls; eight turnovers in the first nine minutes allowed JU to climb back into the game and take the lead, 22-21, with 1016 left in the period. A three-pointer by Kendrick Ray put the lead back in the Owls' talons at 24-22, but four timely free throws by Tanner Rubio swung the game back to JU's favor, 26-24, with 8:26 left in the half. The Dolphins held the lead for the rest of the half, leading by as much as eight points. At the half, the score was JU 39, Kennesaw 31.
- Holder scored 26 points in the game to pull within seven points of tying NBA Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore for 15th all-time in career scoring. The senior from Atlanta, Ga., also had six steals, a career best.
- Fernandez also had six steals. The senior from Onset, Mass., totaled 17 points, five rebounds, four assists, and six steals in 35 minutes of action.
- El Manasterly made both shots he attempted in the KSU Convocation Center. He has never missed a field goal while playing at Kennesaw State (8-8 lifetime, 2-2 this season, 6-6 last season).