Jacksonville University completed an improbable weekend sweep of two of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top teams when the Dolphins beat South Carolina Upstate 88-82 Saturday afternoon at Swisher Gym.
The win clinched Jacksonville’s berth in the A-Sun postseason tournament.
JU (11-16, 7-9 A-Sun) came into the weekend having lost seven of its previous eight games. But the Dolphins beat co-third place teams East Tennessee State and Upstate (17-13, 10-7) to throw the battle for the final two spots up for grabs as to who will host first-round games in the conference tournament in 10 days. Four teams are within 1 1/2 games of each other entering the final week of the regular season.
“I think our guys understand the moment. It’s the end of the year and we want to try and build some momentum,” JU coach Cliff Warren said. “Our seniors understood it was their last game in Swisher. We’re playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy right now.”
The six-point final margin wasn’t indicative of how the Dolphins dominated the game. With six minutes left in the game, JU was cruising with a 19-point advantage of 71-52. Only a flurry of late baskets from beyond the arc closed the gap.
After building a 42-31 lead at intermission, JU started fast in the second half as well. The Dolphins made 4 of 5 shots in the first three minutes to extend their lead to 17 points.
Jacksonville shot 62.5 percent in the first half, a continuation from its strong showing in the second half of Thursday’s win over East Tennessee State when it scored 57 points in the final 20 minutes.
“Everyone is shooting with a lot of confidence right now,” said Keith McDougald, who finished with 20 points including 11 free throws without a miss. “Plus we’re finding the open guy.
“The key today was energy and defense and sharing the ball. And we did a good job in holding their 3-point shooting down until the end of the game.”
Jarvis Haywood scored 24 points for JU and McDougald had 20. Vince Martin scored 18 and Javon Dawson had 11.
Torrey Craig led Upstate with 21 points.