Jacksonville takes down Minnesota on the road 69-66 in season opener

MINNEAPOLIS – A 8-2 run late in the fourth quarter pushed the Jacksonville University Dolphins to a 69-66 win over Minnesota in a closely contested game Tuesday night in the home opener for the Gophers.

“It’s huge for our program, and is huge for this group,” Dolphins coach Darnell Haney said outside a jubilant locker room.

JU, a member of the ASUN conference, improved to 1-1 against Big Ten schools. The win marked the fourth time in program history the Dolphins defeated a Power Five school and first since 2010. Tuesday’s matinee road victory also was only the second time ever that JU knocked off a major conference opponent on the road and first since 2007.

“Minnesota is a good team,” continued Haney. “They got some good size and some shooters. We had to adjust some stuff at the beginning when they started hitting some threes. We start things on the defensive end of the floor and that what we wanted to do and get stops.”

Minnesota led 32-29 at halftime and had a five-point advantage going into the fourth quarter. Jacksonville outscored the Gophers 24-16 in the last period and forced eight Minnesota turnovers. Dolphins guard Khalela Hayes’ layup with 6:31 left gave her team its final lead, which extended to four points in the final minutes.

JU guard Da’Nasia Shaw, who scored four points, including a three pointer in the deciding run, later iced the game with two free throws with two seconds left. She finished with 12 points.

The winners outscored Minnesota in the paint (26-18) and their reserves outperformed the Gophers (26-12), but the teams were even on the boards (36 apiece).

“That team earned it today,” noted Minnesota coach Lindsay Whalen. She pointed out that the visitors’ 1-2-2 full court press “frustrated us. “Then it got tough for us in the fourth quarter.”

Redshirt senior guard Taylor Hawks led Jacksonville (1-0) with 15 points.

“It was a total team effort,” Haney stressed. “I thought our freshman [guard] Jalisa Dunlap was huge [she scored 13 points]. She came in and did some great things for us. I thought [guard] Carmella Walker [7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals] was huge. Asiah Jones [6-3 grad transfer] was huge defensively [team-high seven rebounds and three blocks]. She caused problems for them.”

He also praised 6-1 redshirt junior Shynia Jackson: “We call her Mo – [she] was huge in the first half,” noted Haney of Jackson, who scored 11 points, all in the first half. “She looked like she couldn’t miss.”

Junior guard Sara Scalia, whose game-high 25 points was the most ever scored by a Gopher in a season opener in Whalen’s four years at Minnesota, led the Gophers (0-1).

Minnesota hits the road and plays at Arizona State Nov. 12, 8 p.m. CT. Jacksonville hosts DII Edward Waters Nov. 15.

The Dolphins return to Florida after traveling nearly a half day to Minneapolis. “To get up here, we left at three in the morning [Monday], get on a flight at six, had a layover in Houston, get up here about 1-2 p.m.,” recalled Haney. Tuesday’s win “will make our trip home great.”

Note – Both Whalen and Haney briefly talked about Monday’s announcement that Rutgers legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer will extend her leave of absence from coaching through the end of the 2021-22 season. Associate head coach Timothy Eatman will continue as acting head coach.

“She is a legend,” said Haney about Stringer. “I think she does so much for those young women. I think Tim will do a great job in the interim. I just wish Rutgers and Coach Stringer all the best.”

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