By Mason Wittner, Staff Writer
Kristina Wells’ double-double was not enough to lift Kennesaw State as the Owls fell to Jacksonville Saturday 78-64.
KSU trailed 63-55 with 7:42 to play when the Dolphins presented the Owls with a glimmer of hope, clinging to an eight-point lead. However a 13-2 to run put the Dolphins up 78-59 with 1:20 to play, ending any thoughts of an Owl comeback.
“I feel like she did everything she could tonight to win the ballgame,” KSU head coach Nitra Perry said of Wells. “I can’t complain at all about it. She is the foundation of the team.”
Wells finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Owls (14-8, 3-4) played inspiringly early on, jumping out to an 8-1 lead with 16:52 to go. Jacksonville (7-13, 2-5) showed grit, however, putting together an 11-4 lead and tying the game at 12-apiece with 14:08 to play in the opening half.
Kennesaw State’s final field goal of the first half came on a Deandrea Sawyers’ layup with 6:06 left to play, giving the Owls a 24-21 advantage.
Following the bucket, Jacksonville scored 14 unanswered and took a 35-25 lead into the locker room. The Dolphins would never look back, holding the lead for the remainder of the match.
“I felt like that run in the first half, where we turned it over three or four times in a row, really, really broke our back early,” Perry said. “We never could quite that momentum back.”
Fittingly, the first points of the second half came off of an Owl turnover, extending Jacksonville’s lead to 12. The Dolphins pushed their lead out to 46-31 with 17:30 to go in the game, continuing to suck the momentum and energy out of the Convocation Center.
The Owls attempted to counter by finding a rhythm offensively, but continued to struggle moving the ball as they finished with 9 assists and 18 turnovers.
Jacksonville eventually increased their lead to 53-37 with 12:47 remaining in the game.
“I think it was just a mental wear and tear,” Perry said. “Physically it was the same press that we saw at the beginning of the game when we were getting wide open shots and layups.”
Following the loss, Perry huddled her team up at center court and shared a short message with them.
“I told them that they deserved that beating that we got,” Perry said. “We did not come ready to play. I said this [Jacksonville] is an example of a team. They’re young, they’re buying in to the small things, and they’re just out-toughing people, outworking people. It might not show in the stats, it might not show in their record, but they have been playing extremely hard. We need to take a page out of their book.”
The Owls will take a week off before returning to start the second half of conference play against USC Upstate Saturday, Feb. 7 in the Convocation Center.