It was tough keeping up with the Joneses on Thursday night at the Minidome.
Northern Kentucky’s Eshaunte Jones outdueled East Tennessee State’s Jarvis Jones, scoring 25 points, including an improbable four-point play in the closing seconds, as the Norse picked up a 70-68 Atlantic Sun Conference victory over the Bucs.
“Our Jones made one more shot than their Jones did,” Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold said. “We got lucky.”
Jarvis Jones had a career-high 23 points for the Bucs, but his potential tying driving layup fell off the rim at the buzzer.
“When the game’s on the line, I want the ball in Jarvis’ hands,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “Jarvis got a good look. It just didn’t go in.”
Eshaunte Jones banked in a 3-pointer while being fouled by ETSU’s Lester Wilson with 26.7 seconds left. The free throw put Northern Kentucky up 70-65.
Rashawn Rembert then got free for a 3-point basket, making it 70-68.
Eshaunte Jones was called for an offensive foul at midcourt with 10.5 seconds remaining, giving ETSU a chance to tie. Jarvis Jones drove the lane and got a good look at the hoop. But his left-handed layup bounced off the backboard and rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“Felt like it was going in,” Jarvis Jones said. “Everybody thought I was fouled. I wasn’t really thinking about no foul when I was going. I was concentrating on the making shot.”
A potential foul on the final play was talked about after the game.
“We’ll have to see,” Bartow said. “Do I think there was? Yes. But we’ll have to see. It was a close play and obviously we didn’t get the call that we were hoping to get.”
Bezold said he didn’t relax until he saw the final shot miss.
“I was nervous as heck,” he said. “I didn’t hear a whistle and I saw it didn’t go in and I said ‘Thank you very much.’ ”
ETSU (6-17 overall, 4-6 A-Sun) dropped its second conference game in a row, breaking a pattern that had it follow each victory with a loss and each loss with a victory. The Bucs won the earlier meeting, 49-44.
Northern Kentucky improved to 7-11, 5-5.
After falling behind 17-11, the Bucs went on a 15-2 run thanks to 11 points from Jones. He scored all 14 of his first-half points during a span of just under nine minutes as ETSU grabbed a 31-28 halftime lead.
ETSU didn’t score for the first four minutes of the second half. Northern Kentucky moved out to its biggest lead at 53-43 with 10:23 remaining.
The Bucs’ comeback included some rare man-to-man defense and back-to-back 3-pointers from Mario Stramaglia and Rembert, both assisted by Jones.
Eshaunte Jones drained a pair of long 3-pointers on his first two touches of the night and later added a four-point play, his first of two. He also swished a 38-footer in the second half as the shot clock was expiring.
“I practice those shots a lot,” he said. “That bank, that was luck. Thank God I made the shot. It was big for us.”
The much-traveled senior guard made 7 of 11 shots from 3-point range. He didn’t make a two-point basket and added nine rebounds and five assists.
Jarvis Jones finished 9 for 22 from the field and led the Bucs with six assists. Wilson finished with 16 points for ETSU while Rembert had 10.
Ernest Watson had 16 points for the Norse. Chad Jackson added 12 and Jack Flournoy had 11.
ETSU went with a small lineup down the stretch, leaving forward Hunter Harris on the bench. Harris played seven minutes in the second half and finished with two points.
“He just didn’t play well,” Bartow said. “He’s got to play better. When your numbers are down, every guy’s got to play great. We can’t beat anybody if two or three guys don’t play the way they’re capable of playing.”
Northern Kentucky shot 51 percent from the field, going 11 for 25 from 3-point range. ETSU shot 47 percent and made 10 of 20 threes.
ETSU plays host to Lipscomb on Saturday at 4 p.m.