JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Behind 19 points from Keith McDougald and a monstrous performance from RJ Slawson in the paint, the Jacksonville University men's basketball team came away with a 76-69 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena to send the Eagles to their first Atlantic Sun loss of the season. JU improves to 8-9 (4-2 A-Sun) while FGCU drops to 10-8 (4-1 A-Sun).
A fast-paced start saw both teams running their offenses efficiently and was highlighted by an early dunk from Josh Murray after receiving a feed from Jarvis Haywood to put Jacksonville up, 11-10, less than five minutes in. The scoring continued and a jumper from Florida Gulf Coast's Brett Comer gave the Eagles a 16-15 lead; however that was answered on the other end by a pair of free throws from Marcel White who put the Dolphins up for good after seven minutes.
Vince Martin extended the JU lead to three and after a miss from behind the arc by Bernard Thompson, Javon Dawson got out in transition and attacked Comer one-on-one, scoring at the rim to give Jacksonville a 21-16 edge.
FGCU closed the lead to within one at 25-24, but J.R. Holder was there to provide another lift from the bench. After Holder hit a pair at the foul line to go up three, FGCU's Filip Cvjeticanin was called for a personal foul and a technical foul. McDougald cashed in one of his technical free throws and Holder hit a 3-pointer on the subsequent possession. The next trip down, Holder was there for the putback of a White miss to give Jacksonville its largest lead of the first half, 33-24.
As would prove to be the case throughout the afternoon, Florida Gulf Coast answered the JU run with one of its own, closing to within two at 33-31, but a strong finish to the first half took Jacksonville into the break with a 42-35 advantage.
As he did with the opening bucket of the game, McDougald began the second half with a 3-pointer, giving the Dolphins their first double-digit lead of the game. Jacksonville's lead would hover near the 10-point mark for a few minutes before another McDougald triple restored the lead to 52-42. With FGCU trying to quickly answer, JU intercepted an attempted lob pass and raced back up-court. McDougald got himself into the lane but found an open Martin in the corner who sank a 3-pointer that gave the team its largest lead of the afternoon, 55-42.
Florida Gulf Coast didn't have much in the way of answers for Slawson down low throughout the day. The grad forward pulled in 12 rebounds - half of them on the offensive end - and scored nine points with three intimidating blocks. With the JU lead down to 10, Slawson was part of an effort that gave the Dolphins four shots at the bucket and ended with a Holder layup. The Eagles were able to close to within five with less than eight minutes to play, but Haywood answered the mini-run with a jumper to go back up, 61-54, and McDougald hit his fourth 3-pointer of the afternoon after Slawson grabbed another offensive board to make it 64-54 at the 6:20 mark of the second half. A Haywood triple with 4:32 remaining boosted the JU lead to 69-56 and forced a timeout from the Eagle bench to stem the momentum.
The last FGCU chance to get back in the game came in the final two minutes. With Jacksonville holding a nine-point lead and two minutes remaining, Comer was whistled for a foul on McDougald. However, as the foul was occurring, the JU guard caught Comer in the face with an inadvertent elbow that resulted in a technical foul. After McDougald missed the front end of his 1-and-1 at the charity stripe, Dajuan Graf took the technical free throws for the Eagles and made one, followed by a three-point play from Thompson to make it 70-65 with 1:53 remaining. Jacksonville never lost its cool though, hitting six free throws down the stretch to seal it and send the Dolphins to their third straight win.
Haywood added 13 points on the day, continuing his streak of scoring in double-figures in every game this season. Holder came off the bench with 11 points. Martin matched a career-high with eight assists as all nine Dolphins who saw the court on the day scored and the team went a combined 23-of-29 from the foul line. FGCU came into the game as the Atlantic Sun leader in scoring defense but gave up more than 10 points over its season average, the most the Eagles have allowed in more than a month.
Jacksonville will be in search of its fourth straight win when the Dolphins return to the court on Friday night. The Dolphins travel across town to face North Florida at UNF Arena at 7 p.m.
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