When you’re a 5-20 basketball team and have obvious talent, most people don’t call you bad. They call you dangerous.
East Tennessee State found out the hard way Monday night.
Aloys Cabell poured in 26 points and Jacksonville shut down the Bucs in the second half to claim a 61-55 victory that left a crowd of 3,247 shaking their heads as they filed out of the Dome.
It was the third loss in the last four Atlantic Sun Conference home games for the Bucs, who fell into a tie for fifth place at 7-7 (13-12 overall). They had beaten the Dolphins five straight in the series, and those victories were against better teams.
On this night, however, once the Dolphins got the momentum late in the first half, they didn’t give it back for long. They rode Cabell, the sophomore guard who made 10 of his 13 shots, and senior guard Tevin Gavin down the stretch.
Gavin finished with 13 points, including a 17-footer that gave the Dolphins a four-point lead with 23 seconds left.
The Bucs were held to 26 points on 29 percent shooting in the second half, while Jacksonville shot 57 percent. The home team looked listless and confused, and it now heads to Nashville for games at Belmont and Lipscomb.
ETSU coach Murry Bartow and his players weren’t readily available for comment afterward. They were still in the lockerroom more than an hour after the game was over.
Cliff Warren, who hasn’t had much to smile about this season, was glad to talk about a win.
“I feel honored and blessed to get this win in a very tough environment,” he said. “I think our guys are fired up now.”
Bartow had wanted to get Tommy Hubbard going on the offensive end, and the senior forward responded with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Hubbard, who had attempted just five shots in the last two games, also grabbed 13 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
The Bucs’ other two seniors more than offset Hubbard’s production.
Point guard Adam Sollazzo netted just three points, going 1-for-9 from the field and 1-for-6 from the foul line. It was the second-worst output of the season for the team’s leading scorer.
Forward Isiah Brown, meanwhile, got in early foul trouble and finished with four points — two days after scoring a career-high 27 in a victory over North Florida. He took just four shots and was knocked off his game by two quick fouls. Brown compounded his problems by arguing his third foul less than five minutes into the second half and picking up a technical.
Dubose helped pick up the offensive slack with a 20-point night — his first double-figure scoring in six games — but he made only one of his last six shots. No one else scored more than five for the Bucs.
The Dolphins trailed by 11 points late in the first half, but Cabell scored seven straight points and it was a 29-25 game at the break.
The Bucs got out of the gate with five straight points to start the second half, and then the offensive woes that have plagued them much of the season set it. Galvin started a 13-2 run that gave the Dolphins their first lead, 38-36, when Russell Powell hit a jumper.
A tip-in by Sheldon Cooley and a pair of free throws by Dubose put the Bucs back in front, but Galvin scored five straight points and Cabell had six in a 14-3 run that left Jacksonville in front by eight. ETSU got within two twice but couldn’t pull even.
The Bucs left a lot of points at the foul line, where they were 11 of 22. And that counted Dubose making 8 of 10.
Jacksonville had lost five of its last six games coming in, after leading scorer Keith McDougald suffered a knee injury, and also went through a 13-game losing streak earlier in the season. At 4-11, the Dolphins are still in ninth place and have work to do to make the A-Sun tournament. They have three games left in the regular season.
Warren said his players have stayed motivated through some tough times this year.
“They’re kids, teen-agers, and they bounce back pretty quick,” said Warren. “The coaching staff, it’s a little different.”