Video recap of the Jacksonville Dolphins' upset of the Belmont Bruins in the Atlantic Sun Conference Quarterfinals (via AtlanticSun.org)
March Madness is all about improbable upsets, shocking victories and comeback wins.
That’s exactly what happened with the Jacksonville Dolphins' upset of the Belmont Bruins, 62-58.Early on, Belmont showed why they were the favorite as they took it to Jacksonville and opened up with a 23-13 lead. It was keyed by first team all conference player, Haley Nelson. At this point in the game, Nelson had 6 points and astonishing 9 rebounds with 7:05 left to play.
And even though Jacksonville was struggling offensively to find any cohesiveness; they continued to show a gritty resolve that kept them well within striking distance.
"I thought we just showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart, a lot of passion," said Jacksonville Head coach Jill Dunn.
With Belmont having a healthy, 36-27 lead at halftime, they seemed to have complete control of the game. Nelson already had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, they were holding Jacksonville to just 25% from the field and outscoring the Dolphins, 10-4 in the paint. However, the second half would be a complete difference for both teams.
"We really got away from what we do well," said Belmont Head coach Brittany Ezell.
As the second half began, it quickly became the Abril Peeples Show as she literally put on an aerial assault that would have made Jimmer Fredette proud.
Within the first 6 minutes of the second half, the Dolphins went on an 11-5 run as Peeples scored 9 points on 3-3 shooting from beyond the arc. But it wasn’t just necessarily the points that were the catalyst for Jacksonville during this run, it was also the fire and emotion that Peeples exuded that gave the Dolphins the confidence boost to play with the much bigger Bruins.
"We needed some points and the girls knew she had the hot hand," said Dunn. "We were trying to run some plays to her and you know just her emotion of making those baskets and getting everybody else fired up, I felt was huge."
With Jacksonville playing with renewed belief and energy, it seemed that Belmont slowly got away from what was working for them in the first half.
"I think we fell in love with shooting jump shots," said Ezell. "They were making it very physical on Haley and it was very difficult to get the ball in there to her."
That being said, Belmont appeared to weather the storm and seemed to regain control with a Molly Ernst three pointer to push the lead to 9 with 16:04 to play. But Peeples immediately responded with 2 three pointers to trim Belmont’s lead down to three.
And from that point on the Dolphins seized the momentum and slowly chipped away at Belmont’s lead and pull out the four point victory.
"And again it’s tournament play, that’s what it’s all about right now," said Dunn. "It’s just playing the hardest you can, playing with a lot of heart, playing with a lot of passion and I felt we did that down the stretch."
Haley Nelson led the way for Belmont with a double-double, 14 points and 16 rebounds and Molly Ernst contributed with 14 points. Jacksonville was led by Jade Cargill had a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds and Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, Crystal Bell had 10 points. But it was the superb performance of their teammate Abril Peeples who had 22 points that stole the show.
"She [Peeples] was a bad match up for us, she did an unbelievable job of shooting the basketball," said Ezell "And they searched for her, to go 6-9 [three point field goals] in a conference quarterfinal, that’s a big-time play.
"We tell the kids all the time, it’s about players making plays and she made a bunch of them. She did a great job."