JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Dolphins were strong on both sides of their home court in an 85-68 victory over the Georgia Southern Eagles on Tuesday night in Swisher Gymnasium.
The Dolphins (2-1) never trailed en route to a convincing win over the Sun Belt foe.
Bryce Workman has been nothing short of a breath of fresh air since returning this season after missing all of last year with a knee injury. The redshirt senior has been pivotal in every game so far this year, but he had a career night in just his third game since his return. Workman’s night included a double-double, Jacksonville’s first since January: 19 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, and a career-high in blocks with three.
Jacksonville’s offense was also paced by Robert McCray V, who had 17 points, Marcus Niblack had a season-high 14, and Stephon Payne III had 12. The JU offense also shot 50% from beyond the arc, which included a night that saw nine three-pointers. The last time Jacksonville made at least five threes in a single game was in January.
Jacksonville entered the match as the number one rebounding team in the country, averaging 55 total rebounds through two games. Georgia Southern entered on the opposite end of the stat sheet, averaging 34.5 rebounds per game, which was 263rd in the country. Tonight was no different, as Jacksonville grabbed 12 of the first 15 rebounds of the game, and that was just in the first eight minutes of the contest. The Dolphins went on to out-rebound the Eagles by a final of 39-29, pushing their total to 149 through the first three games of the season.
The first half started with the Dolphins’ defense forcing tough shot after tough shot, and the offense capitalized on numerous occasions to gain early momentum. A Robert McCray V block on the first GSU shot of the game went the other way, and Jarius Cook moved swiftly through the paint for the game’s first bucket. After a Malik Tidwell jumper for the Eagles, Jacksonville’s high-flying offense was on display again, and Robert McCray V found Payne flying towards the hoop for an alley-oop. From there, Jacksonville scored 13 of the next 17 to separate themselves by as many as nine points on the backs of McCray, Bryce Workman, and Marcus Niblack, who all had three apiece during the run.
While Georgia Southern knocked down a few shots in an attempt to close the gap, McCray and Workman were beginning to heat up on the offensive side of the court. From the 15-minute mark until 7:52 left in the half, the tandem combined for 15 points. McCray hit three from beyond the arc, including one that was a shot-clock-beating pull-up jumper from the elbow right in front of the visiting bench, sending Swisher into a frenzy and giving the Dolphins a 29-20 lead.
The Eagles’ offense found a bit of a groove towards the end, outscoring the Dolphins 18-17 in the last seven-plus minutes. Jacksonville’s DeeJuan Pruitt had five JU points in that stretch, including a big corner three. Powell complemented Pruitt with four of his own points to close out the first half.
The opening minutes of the second half saw both offenses finding a bit of a groove, as with every shot Georgia Southern hit, Jacksonville answered right away. Avantae Parker started the half off with a layup for GSU, and Payne responded for the Dolphins. Nate Brafford and Russel Dean combined for four for the Eagles, and Payne and Workman teamed up for three. Jacksonville gained a bit of momentum heading into the first media timeout after Jarius Cook and Powell hit a three and two, respectively, before Workman pulled up a two-point jumper to give the Dolphins another nine-point lead.
The Dolphins’ momentum continued to bloom throughout the second half. Jacksonville went on a 12-3 run between timeouts, one of them forced after Niblack almost tore the roof off Swisher Gymnasium with a one-handed slam over one of the Eagles’ forwards. With the crowd as rowdy as it had been all night, Tyren Moore for GSU followed Niblack’s slam with an airball that fell out of bounds. The Niblack show wasn’t over, though, as he swayed through the paint on the other end of the court and put in a nifty finger roll to see Jacksonville claim its largest lead of 18 with 12 minutes to play and force Georgia Southern to take a timeout.
The Eagles came out of their timeout with new life, and even went on a run that saw them down as few as nine with 4:39 left. But it was short-lived. McCray put a three-point dagger down to tilt the momentum back towards the Dolphins, and a Payne alley-oop with a Workman triple saw JU up 19 again just like that. The Dolphins ended the game with a 17-point victory, its largest win over Georgia Southern since 1971.
Jacksonville returns to the court on Friday with another trip up north to Pittsburgh to take on the University of Pittsburgh. It’ll be the fifth matchup all-time between the two sides, and tip-off is slated for 7 pm. The game can be streamed on ACC Network Plus or listened to on 1010XL.
NUMBERS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Jacksonville has outrebounded its opponents 149-101 through three games this season.
- Both Workman and McCray have recorded double figures in scoring in every game so far this season. McCray leads the team in average with 17, but Workman is just behind, averaging 15 points a game.
- Both Payne and Workman have three blocks apiece this season.