ORLANDO, Fla. – In a season packed with historic milestones, it's only fitting that Jacksonville University women's basketball battled back to take its first round Women's National Invitation Tournament matchup with the University of Central Florida into overtime, Wednesday evening at CFE Arena. The game did not lack dramatic flair as junior Jasmyn Brown drained a pass from senior Brandi Buie with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime, where the Dolphins ultimately fell to the Knights, 65-60.
"We didn't get the stops we needed on the defensive end and we didn't execute on the offensive end when we needed to. I just hate it for our seniors; it means so much and their legacy is so strong," stated Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "I hate that we couldn't continue to play, but failure is part of life. We lost a game, but we have a lot to be excited about. What we've done and what we're planning on doing as we continue to represent the University."
After trading layups to open overtime, the Knights pushed their lead to six. Jacksonville answered back to cut their deficit in half, 61-58, on Brown's heroic shooting outside the arc with 44 seconds remaining.
With 29.4 seconds to play, UCF drained four free throws to finish with a final lead of 65-60.
The Dolphins finish the 2017-18 season with a 24-9 overall record – a new single-season program record for wins – and their second-ever appearance in the WNIT.
With a slim 35-34 lead heading into the final quarter, the Dolphins faced a deficit as large as five, 40-45 with 4:11 left in the fourth. The Dolphins came back within one, 47-46, and with 16.0 seconds remaining, UCF's Lawriell Wilson hit a mid-range jumper with 8.6 left to push the hosts' lead to 49-46. Persevering, Brown's three-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime.
Added McCuin, "I was excited – Jaz has made big shots all year, if we think back to Troy and South Alabama. Her growth – I knew she was going to make it. We had been working on in-game situations all week and for Kayla [Gordon] to recognize that we needed a three and to pass it out, and for Jaz to be confident, it was phenomenal."
Brown finished the game with a team-high 19 points, while Gordon added nine points and eight rebounds. Buie finished the day with 13 points and four steals.
After opening with the game's first basket, the Dolphins faced a 7-2 deficit midway through the first quarter. Jacksonville quickly countered with a jumper from senior Kayla Gordon and a pair of free throws from senior Naqaiyyah Teague to come within one with 3:22 left, but the hosts held an 11-8 lead after the first 15 minutes.
Jacksonville rediscovered its defensive identity in the second and held the Knights to just five points while exploding for 13 on the offensive end. A crucial 11-0 run pushed the Dolphins to a 17-11 lead with 3:19 to go before halftime. Jacksonville held firm to a 21-16 lead at the intermission.
Steadily chipping away at the Dolphins' lead, UCF used a 7-0 run in the third to temporarily regain the lead, 23-21, at the 7:42 mark. Brown connected on back-to-back three-pointers to keep Jacksonville ahead through the third quarter, 35-34.
Teague finished the day with nine points, eight boards, and five assists.
"They left everything out here," McCuin stated about the Dolphins' trio of seniors – Buie, Gordon, and Teague. "The way they went out tonight is how we want everybody that wants to be a part of this program and that's returning to be and that's tough. What they've done is going to be hard for us to duplicate or defeat; it's a lofty goal, but it's one that you can still chase. You have to continue to find ways to challenge yourself or you're going to become content.
"The challenge will be to pursue our own legacy in the future, but we know what they've done and I'm sure with the amount of seniors we have coming back next year, they will want to have the same experience. The moments we've created this year, I will never forget."