After winning their first two conference games of the season, Kennesaw State lost on Monday night to the Jacksonville Dolphins.
It was the Owls’ sixth consecutive loss to JU and fifth consecutive at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
It was an extremely physical game throughout, especially in the first half.
“Jacksonville is always a very physical team, and I didn’t feel like we matched their intensity in the first quarter,” Kennesaw State coach Nitra Perry said about the team’s intensity.
KSU (7-11, 2-1) played inspired and relentless defense, but were hit by the turnover bug early and often. The Owls were stifled by the physical full court press JU was playing and turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. The Dolphins built a big 24-9 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
“I am proud of them,” Perry said. “I feel like we did a good job fighting back, but we have to focus on how we want to start the game and put everything together in the future.”
The Dolphins took care of the ball and played balanced offensively with five different players scoring in double figures, led by Sherronda Reddicks’ 15 points.
KSU cut the deficit to nine early in the third quarter with some sound defensive adjustments, but four consecutive turnovers led to a big run for the Dolphins as their lead quickly increased back up to 20.
“We did go to a zone, which was our main adjustment,” Perry said. “They are a team that comes out the gate really strong, so that is what we expected from the film we saw of them. Once we went zone we really slowed them down and then we woke up as well.”
The Owls struggled to limit second-chance points, as they allowed a season-high 22 offensive rebounds leading to 22 Dolphins’ points.
The play of KSU forward Jasmine McAllister, who finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds, helped keep the Owls within striking distance, but the shots just weren’t falling for the rest of the team.
“She had an awesome game,” Perry said. “We try to get her the ball every time we can, and I really thought that she came through for us today. It was a great confidence builder for her.”
KSU shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc.
The Owls best shooter, Kelly Dulkoski, hit two big three-pointers early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead back to 12, but her teammate, Aaron Smith, was limited due to the relentless JU defense.
Smith only attempted one three and was held to four points after back-to-back 23 point performances in the two previous KSU victories.
“They were face guarding her and we have to do a better job of getting her the ball when she is open.” Perry said.
JU (11-7, 3-0) had won their first two conference games by an average of 32 points and were heavy favorites coming into the game, but the Owls never gave up. The second, third and fourth quarters were all played virtually even, but the slow start was too much to overcome as KSU fell 78-63.
“I really think that the physicality of the game today is what I want to take from it because of the goals that we have for our season,” Perry said about her team’s performance. “We definitely need to have that kind of physicality going into every game and I was very proud of their effort because they never laid down.”
It was the Owls first conference loss of the season and the they will look to bounce back to their winning ways at home this Saturday when they take on the Hatters of Stetson.