Free Throws, Defense Key in Dolphins' Victory Over Ospreys in ASUN Opener
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Completing 17 of 19 chances at the free throw line, Jacksonville University women's basketball team defeated crosstown rival North Florida, 66-48, in the teams' ASUN Conference opener, Saturday afternoon at UNF Arena. The Dolphins held the Ospreys to single digits in the second and fourth quarters and shot 50 percent or better in the final three periods.
A trio of Dolphins recorded double-digit performances as Kayla Gordon led all scorers and controlled the boards behind 16 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Naqaiyyah Teague and Shakayla Nevitt added 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Brandi Buie recorded seven of her nine points at the free throw line.
The Dolphins (11-5, 1-0 ASUN) are now 4-1 against UNF in ASUN openers.
"I felt like we started off slow; this is a new team, so essentially this was the first conference matchup for a lot of them," stated Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "With us talking about it being a new season and stressing about things that we have to get better at, they started off hesitant. As they realized that we're 15 games in and this is just another game, they started to relax and play the JU way."
The Dolphins relied on perfect shooting from the free throw line in the opening quarter, as six of their eight points came at the line. A pair of made free throws from both Nevitt and Buie cut the Dolphins' deficit in half to four with time winding down, but a last-second Osprey shot allowed North Florida (7-9, 0-1 ASUN) to lead 15-8 after the first.
Jacksonville quickly found its spark in the second, opening the period on a 8-0 run behind back-to-back layups off the press from Shalonda Neely (9:53) and Nevitt (9:37). The Dolphins continued on a 13-2 run and erased a seven-point deficit, holding UNF to just one basket through the 5:23 mark. Jacksonville's 21-17 advantage was aided by Nevitt's nine points during that run, and the Dolphins led 26-24 at halftime.
Noting confidence as the difference between the first and second quarters, McCuin added, "Giving them the confidence to have a sense of urgency and lock in defensively, that was the difference. … We did not play well, in my opinion, for three quarters of the whole game. That's not to discredit North Florida, we were just out of sync. We held them two quarters below 10 points, and I think that was the difference."
Fueled by six points from Teague, Jacksonville's 8-0 run out of halftime gave the Dolphins a 39-29 advantage with 4:10 on the clock. JU then fought off an 11-2 run from the Osprey and led 44-40 going into the final 10 minutes.
A 12-0 run – including eight points from Gordon – spanning the final 12 seconds of the third through the 6:30 mark in the fourth pushed the game further in the Dolphins' favor, 53-40. Jacksonville's ironclad defense did not allow the Ospreys to string together more than one basket the entire quarter, and the Dolphins outscored UNF 22-8 to surge to victory.
Added McCuin, "I'm excited about where we can go from here. I didn't think we played our best basketball for 40 minutes, so that's something that we can improve on. We'll get rest and get ready for our next opponent."
Keonna Farmer led North Florida with 15 points, while Adrienne Jackson recorded a game-high seven rebounds for the Ospreys.
The Dolphins return to Swisher Gymnasium next weekend when they play host to Lipscomb on Saturday, Jan. 13 and Kennesaw State three days later on Monday, Jan. 15. Both games tip off at 1:00 p.m.