FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jacksonville University women's basketball outscored the hosts in the fourth quarter while a pair of first-year players stepped up with double figures, but the Dolphins were unable to find their rhythm in the third quarter and fell at Florida Gulf Coast in a 63-58 heartbreaker, Saturday afternoon.
"I thought both teams played their hearts out, both teams wanted to win the game and unfortunately, someone had to lose and we were at that end this time," stated Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "There were some key moments in the game that I felt we didn't capitalize on and some key possessions that we'll be able to watch film on and be ready for when they come to our place."
"Florida Gulf Coast did their job, they protected their home floor. Now we need to do our job when they come to our place and go from there. That's going to be the focus; we'll learn from this. We have to move on to the next game, exude toughness, and protect home court."
Naqaiyyah Teague and Lindsay John led the Dolphins (15-6, 5-1 ASUN) behind 15 and 10 points, respectively, while Kayla Gordon controlled the boards with 13 rebounds. Jacksonville finished the game with a 42-29 advantage in rebounds.
"I was proud of them both. Hopefully this is a game that gives them confidence to know that they are part of what we're trying to do on both ends of the floor and we're going to need them in third stretch," added McCuin.
John lit things up beyond the arc to open the game, as back-to-back three pointers at 8:31 and 6:28 gave Jacksonville an 8-4 lead with 6:28 on the clock. Later in the quarter, a 5-0 Dolphin run tied the game at 13, before FGCU (20-3, 6-0 ASUN) took a one-point lead, 19-18, to end the quarter.
Jacksonville chipped away at a pair of six-point Eagle advantages throughout the second quarter, and it was the Big Ticket who made a splash before halftime. Coming off the bench with 16 seconds remaining, La'Karis Salter drained a three-pointer under pressure as time expired to bring the Dolphins within one at halftime, 32-31.
Jacksonville extended its lead to three, 35-32, on a layup from John with 8:58 showing in the third. It marked the first time this season that the Cholet, France native reached double figures.
A critical and-one play from Alexis Burns at 3:24 in the third brought Jacksonville within three, 43-40. However, a 7-0 Eagle run to close out the quarter put the hosts ahead, 53-44, with the final 10 minutes to play.
Added McCuin, "We got mentally fatigued and we didn't do some key things defensively to get stops when we needed to. Those will be things that we'll be able to correct when they come to us."
Six of Brandi Buie's nine points came on a 10-4 run in the fourth, as Buie sank a foul shot after being fouled on a layup, then drained a three on the next trip down the floor. Trailing by three, 61-58, with 53 seconds to go, a crucial steal from Gordon gave the Dolphins the ball. A missed shot forced Jacksonville to foul and the Eagles extended its lead to 63-58 with 23 seconds to play.
A timeout was called to draw up a play and advance the ball past half court, but a Dolphin shot was blocked as the Eagles held on for the remaining 5.3 seconds to take a 63-58 win.
Erica Nelson and Nasrin Ulel led the Eagles with 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Taylor Gradinjan's six rebounds paced the hosts.
The Dolphins return to Swisher Gym next weekend as Stetson and FGCU make the trip to Duval. Jacksonville opens with a Thursday evening matchup with the Hatters at 7 p.m., followed by a rematch with the Eagles Saturday at 1 p.m.