MACON, Ga. (judolphins.com) – In their final non-conference matchup of the season, the Jacksonville University women's basketball team had six players reach double figures as the Dolphins completed a second-half comeback with an 87-83 victory in overtime at Mercer, Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Arena.
"We had dug ourselves a little hole in the first quarter, but they were gritty and relentless getting back in the game and taking care of business at the end," noted head coach Darnell Haney following the game. "We had some key contributions … everybody came in and gave a great effort today. I was proud of their relentless attitude. When we got down, they didn't back down; they kept getting after it, possession after possession."
The Dolphins (8-5) outpaced the Bears 24-16 in the fourth quarter as freshman Da'Nasia Shaw drained a three-pointer with 16.8 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 73 and force overtime.
With four of the first six points in overtime, the Bears (3-10) looked poised to steal the game. Staying true to their relentless identity, the Dolphins sparked a seven-point run to surge ahead, 84-77, with 52 seconds on the clock. While the Bears would manage six more points in overtime, Jacksonville held steady for the 87-83 victory.
Six players reached double figures despite early struggles offensively in the first quarter. From there, however, the Dolphins shot above 50 percent for the remainder of the game including 55.6% in overtime to bring home JU's first overtime win since March 8, 2018.
Redshirt-senior Shakayla Nevitt notched her fourth 20+ point game over the last five contests with a team-high 24 points and five rebounds. Converting on 5-of-6 tries from the free throw line, senior Kiara Meeks added 13 points and five assists, while redshirt-senior Shalonda Neely posted 13 points and nine rebounds. Additionally, Shaw finished 3-for-5 from beyond the arc with 11 points; senior Alexis Burns put up 11 points and four assists; and sophomore Destiny Marshall notched 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in the win.
Trailing 22-10 after the first quarter, Jacksonville used a six-point run in the early minutes of the second quarter to spark life. Back-to-back three-pointers from Meeks (4:03 and 3:20), including a charge taken by the senior, sparked a 12-0 run as JU closed the gap to six at half-time, 39-33.
Noted Haney, "In the second quarter, we just had to keep punching. I told them it was not like us to give us 24 points in the first quarter. We got out of our defensive principles a little bit, but we steadily started making our way back in and getting stops. Having relentless people in our program is what helped us get this win tonight.
"To God be the glory; he's blessed this team and these individuals. Their character was going to get them back in the game and they showed high character today. That's what we want – high character kids that are gritty, and tough, and will keep going."
The momentum then swung in the Dolphins' favor in the third quarter, as Jacksonville used an 8-0 run behind Shaw's first three-pointer (6:05); an old-fashioned three-point play from Neely (4:47), and a layup from junior Alexis Pierce (4:27). With time expiring in the quarter, the teams traded shots as Burns knocked down a jumper with six seconds remaining, before Mercer's Amoria Neal-Tysor buried a three at the buzzer with the hosts holding a 57-49 advantage.
The final quarter was all Dolphins as JU outpaced Mercer 11-4 midway through the quarter to come within one, 61-60, with 5:29 left to play. Jacksonville tied things at 64 (3:53) and 66 (2:32), and at 73 (16.8) to force extra time.
"My staff was tremendous," complimented Haney. "Coach Bri and her scout was really good; Coach Steph was good on offense; Coach Jackson was great defensively. They did a great job; I'm proud of them too, and they need to be recognized. Now we take it into conference play. We just take it one game at a time – continue to grow and continue to get better."
Neal-Tysor (26 points) and Jaron Dougherty (22 points) led Mercer offensively, while Shannon Titus brought down a team-high nine boards.
The Dolphins open ASUN Conference action on Monday, January 11 when they head to North Alabama for a 7 p.m. EST matchup.
ABOUT THE ASUN
The ASUN Conference is an NCAA Division I league with nine member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The ASUN meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement through a true balance between student and athlete. Six ASUN schools reside in Nielsen Top 50 national media markets, and all nine are in top 80 markets. The ASUN includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Liberty University, Lipscomb University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of North Alabama, University of North Florida and Stetson University. Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., joins the ASUN for the 2020-21 academic year.
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