Liberty (18-7, 9-1) vs. Jacksonville (15-8, 7-4)
Jacksonville, FL – Swisher Gym (Capacity: 1,500)
Saturday, Feb. 12, 6:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Liberty defeated Jacksonville, 88-49, on Jan. 18 in Liberty Arena
Series History: Liberty leads 8-0
Projected LU Starters:
2 Darius McGhee (Sr., 5-9, 150) – 22.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.6 apg
23 Joseph Venzant (Fr., 6-3, 170) – 4.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.7 apg
20 Keegan McDowell (R-Sr., 6-6, 180) – 10.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.8 apg
22 Kyle Rode (Jr., 6-7, 220) – 8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.0 apg
33 Shiloh Robinson (R-Jr., 6-7, 200) – 10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.1 apg
Projected Jacksonville Starters:
3 Kevion Nolan (Jr., 6-2, 170) – 13.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.1 apg
11 Jordan Davis (Sr., 6-3, 195) – 8.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
23 Tyreese Davis (So., 6-6, 210) – 7.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 apg
15 Osayi Osifo (Jr., 6-8, 225) – 7.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.4 apg
12 Mike Marsh (So., 6-10, 250) – 8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg
First-year head coach Jordan Mincy brought a new mindset to Jacksonville, and the Dolphins have responded to win 15 games at this point in the season. That’s more wins than Jacksonville has won in any of the previous four seasons, and JU has a chance to reach their highest win total since the 2010-11 season when they last had a 20-win season.
Mincy and Jacksonville came into Liberty Arena on Jan. 18 with an unblemished 3-0 mark in ASUN play. They had that game circled as one to make a statement to the rest of the league that they were to be taken seriously this year. It didn’t happen that way as the Flames had one of their best games of the season, making 16 of 27 three-point attempts and scoring 1.49 points per possession in the 88-49 rout of the Dolphins.
“It was a great test for us to see where we stand with them and the rest of the league,” Coach Mincy said a few weeks ago immediately following their loss to the Flames. “We experienced it first hand. It was eye-opening for us to be able to understand the level of play that we need to get our selves to, it was eye-opening. For me, it’s a learning lesson. We can always get better. It was a huge test for us, but ultimately it will help us get better. For us, it was a great lesson. To be able to see culture first-hand, up close in-person. We will learn from it. We will be better from it. It will help us moving forward.”
After that game, JU went into a bit of a slump, dropping three straight games, all on the road. They lost to Bellarmine in overtime by three in the following game, before losing at Kennesaw State by eight points. Since then though, Mincy and the Dolphins have settled the ship and are playing as well as anyone in the ASUN. They have won four out of five games with their only loss coming in a six point defeat at Jacksonville State.
Saturday’s game will be a chance for Jacksonville to prove the first meeting with Liberty was a fluke, and that they are to be considered a true threat down the stretch and into the conference tournament. Currently three games behind the Flames for first place in the ASUN’s East Division, this is probably the last chance a team has to catch Liberty for the top spot. Though, even with a win, the Dolphins will still be two games behind the Flames. Jacksonville is currently holding a razor-thin one game lead over FGCU and Kennesaw State and two games in front of Stetson for the coveted No. 2 spot in the division, which would ensure them of a first round bye in the ASUN Tournament.
Jacksonville’s top five scorers are all transfers, including four that are in their first season with the program. Kevion Nolan began his career at Samford before joining JU and beginning to play with them last year. Jordan Davis (Dayton), Tommy Bruner (USC Upstate), Osayi Osifo (Florida), and Mike Marsh (JUCO) round out Jacksonville’s top five scorers.
“First year head coach, we’re trying to build something special,” Mincy said back in January. “We’re trying to build something special with a foundation that’s solid. For us, being able to see how they executed offensively and seeing how they adjusted throughout the course of the game, that’s what we have to be able to do is to make those in game adjustments.”
Liberty 62, Jacksonville 59