JASICK POSTGAME (AUDIO)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville University men's basketball team (7-9, 0-1 ASUN) opened up conference play on Saturday night with a heart-pounding effort against league-favorite Lipscomb (10-4, 1-0 ASUN), battling from beginning to end but ultimately coming up just inches short, 77-74.
It was sharp shooting from long range in the first half that kept JU in the game and the defense that made the difference in the second as the Dolphins fought tooth and nail to come back from multiple double-digit deficits to have multiple chances to tie the game in the closing moments. Both Tyreese Davis and Aamahne Santos fired up triples at different points in the final minute that could have sent this one to overtime but the lucky roll was not with the Dolphins tonight.
Santos came off the bench for the first time this season and made good use of the opportunity, scoring a game and career-high 17 points on 5-10 shooting and 3-6 from deep to go with four assists. JD Notae returned to the starting lineup and capitalized with his first double double of the season, third of his career bolstered by a career-best 13 points paired with 12 points. Joining that duo in double figures was Jace Hogan and Tyreese Davis, both of whom contributed 10 points.
As a team the Dolphins shot 44.1 percent from the floor for the game, made nine three balls and forced 16 turnovers that turned into 21 points on the other end. The block party continued as well with seven more added to the ledger, giving the team 95 for the season as it approaches a top 10 total in program history already.
The Dolphins jumped ahead to a 5-0 lead that was whittled away and turned into an 11-7 deficit by the first media timeout in the first half. The back-and-forth ensued as both sides traded three-point leads for much of the first half until 4:09 mark when Lipscomb made its run to build a 10-point advantage.
Santos canned a triple on the next JU possession to halt the momentum and David Bell later hammered home a massive two-handed slam that stemmed a 10-3 run to close the half for the Dolphins. Hogan knocked down a long two the buzzer to this game to the locker rooms with Lipscomb on top, 42-39.
The Dolphins came out of the locker room slowly and Lipscomb quickly jumped ahead by 10 but Bell got loose on the inside again for two and this time it was Davis coming up with a big three ball to stop the run and make it just a five-point game with 17:28 to play.
Back-and-forth they went in front of a raucous Swisher Gymnasium crowd but as many runs as JU made it seemed the Bisons always had answers and led by as many as 14 in the second half. Derrick Flowers knocked down his customary triple to fire up the JU bench and that seemed to turn the tide midway through the second.
The Dolphins trailed by 11 with 4:58 to go and the defense locked in, not allowing another bucket from the Bisons until the two-minute mark, during which JU scored four to make it a seven-point contest with the home stretch in front of it. The Dolphins wound up forcing five Lipscomb turnovers over the final two minutes, baiting a team that averages just 13 turnovers per game into 16 on the night.
DeAnthony McCallum made a pair of free throws with 23 seconds to play to make this a one-possession game and the Dolphins fouled on the inbounds to put the Bisons on the line. Buckland missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving JU its first chance to tie. Notae found a wide-open Davis who rattled back iron. The ball bounced skyward and seemed headed for pay dirt when it grazed the suspension wire above killing the play.
Lipscomb made a free throw, Notae scored a driving lay in and Coach Jasick called for time with just under three seconds to play. The Bisons then missed the front end of a pair of free throws and made the second to move ahead by three with 1.6 seconds to go. JU ran the play they wanted, got the ball in to Santos who took a couple dribbles past mid-court before settling in for a 30-footer that also found back iron. Lipscomb had survived.
Next up for Jacksonville will be a long trip north. First will be a visit to Kennesaw State for a date with the Owls on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. before continuing up to Lynchburg, Va. for a date with new league member Liberty on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m.