Jacksonville men’s basketball (14-9, 2-4 ASUN) were able to get a slide-stopping win over Stetson 103-92 Wednesday night, and its reward is a road date with the sole leaders of the league in the first half finale of conference play. Florida Gulf Coast (16-6, 5-1) beat North Florida at UNF Arena earlier this week, and have a home loss to USC Upstate as the only blemish on its resume so far. The Dolphins and Eagle matchup will be the last first time matchup of the conference season, and the first of two games in a week featuring the two teams. JU also has another date with the Hatters Monday night, another quick turnaround due to the snake style league scheduling in the ASUN.
Jacksonville showed why it was successful in the non-conference portion of the schedule and had garnered so much optimism heading in to conference play with its performance on Wednesday at home against Stetson. Both teams were in desperate need of a win to stay relevant in the conference race, and JU came out like the team that had the greater sense of urgency. A return to form (and maybe even an irrationally good performance) from behind the arc fueled the Dolphins to a large lead in the first half that masked some of the defensive deficiencies that continue to plague the team, as Stetson’s comeback was not enough.
Of the three questions asked on this site prior to the game, only one and a half were answered. Yes, Jacksonville can still shoot from deep (18-32, 56% for the game) and they were able to avoid dry spells, going as long as two minutes and 45 seconds between points at the longest, which in light of recent events, is a vast improvement. But defensively, JU allowed Stetson to shoot over 52 percent for the game, were outscored by six in the second half and let the Hatters climb back from a 26 point deficit to cut it to five with five minutes to play. That will not fly on the road this weekend.
Freshman Tanner Rubio got his first career start Wednesday and had a smashing debut, setting a new career high with 39 points on 8-12 shooting from downtown while playing all but one minute. He turned in the highest scoring total of a freshman in the ASUN this season, and will now face the biggest test of his career: can he encore on the road in one of the toughest environments in the league with defensive minded Zach Johnson guarding him?
Darien Fernandez continues to be one of the best players on the floor night in and night out. Since fouling out in 12 minutes with no points against UNF, he is averaging 18.8ppg/6.2rpg/3.2apg/3.6spg and only two turnovers a contest.
JR Holder continues to quietly be an efficiency monster for Jacksonville, pouring in 26 on 10-18 FG and is shooting 54 percent from the field in ASUN play, the third highest in the league amongst non-post players. One thing he can always work to improve on is turnovers, especially via offensive fouls.
Devin Harris is nursing an injury that may limit him after he missed Wednesday night’s game. His absence puts greater pressure on the point guards as ball handlers.
Cody Helgeland is finding his rhythm again after coming back from the ankle injury that sidelined him for three and a half games. His 13/6/4ast in 38 minutes vs. Stetson was his best outing so far in conference play. With Darius Dawkins slump continuing (now 0-17 from behind the arc), Helgeland’s efficiency and durability is key.
Antwon Clayton reentered the starting lineup and logged 25 minutes of energy ball before fouling out. Demontrez Austin chipped in 17 and Omar El Manasterly posted a DNP. Post players all across America are struggling to stay on the floor with the new “freedom of movement” points of emphasis in officiating this year, and these three will have to defend without fouling better on Saturday to stand a chance.
Florida Gulf Coast is serious about defending its ASUN tournament championship from last season, and preseason pick to win the league is 5-1 and in first as we get ready to make the turn in the league season. A diverse scoring bunch, six Eagles are averaging nine points per game or better. Not known as a three point shooting team, the long, athletic bunch do most damage at or near the rim either in the halfcourt or transition. Jacksonville swept FGCU last year, but that was without Demetrius Morant. The Redshirt-senior is posting a 10ppg/7.6rpg line this season, and is shooting an ASUN best 74 percent from the field, and an even better 81 percent in league play.
Finding a way to take the crowd out of it, as Jacksonville did in its win in Ft. Myers last year, is imperative. USC Upstate, who beat FGCU in Alico Arena this year, was able to make 12 threes to the Eagles 3, proving to be the difference in a two point victory.
Projected starting five:
G Zach Johnson 12.4 ppg/3.2 apg/team high 27 steals
G Brandon Goodwin 16.4 ppg/team high 4 apg
Wing Christian Terrell 11 ppg/42 3pt%
Post Demetris Morant 10ppg/7.6rpg/74% FG/team high 36 blocks
Post Antravious Simmons 6.9ppg/4.1rpg
Since JU just beat Stetson in a shootout, anticipate a rock fight in DeLand on Monday night. Derick Newton dropped in 31, 13 of which came at the foul line, and the Hatters got 20 from its bench and outscored Jacksonville in the paint by two. The difference was JU’s 18 made three’s to Stetson’s 10. Jacksonville was able to sweep Stetson last year by outshooting them once, and outdefending them the second time. Monday night might come down to defense.
Probable starters (and Wednesday night numbers)
G Divine Myles 16/7/4ast/fouled out after 37 minutes
G Angel Rivera 7/3/5ast
Stretch Luke Doyle 14/4-7 3pt
Wing Derick Newton 31/7/8-16 FG/13-14 FT
Post Larry Dennis 4/1/8 minutes