Led by another strong scoring performance from JoJo Anderson, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks left Florida with a victory as they now turn to Big Sky Conference play.
Anderson scored 26 points against the Jacksonville Dolphins (4-9), leading Northern Arizona (3-10) to snap a three-game losing streak, 83-72, on Wednesday.
"He's been making shots in games, but the fact is he has been more consistent in practice," Lumberjacks head coach Jack Murphy said of Anderson. "I mean, his attitude has been great, he has bought in and you can see it translating to the court in games. We always knew he was talented, the last stretch of his freshman year I thought was good. He has bought into his role, really taken a hold of it and doesn't want to relinquish it."
Hitting a 3-pointer for the game's first points, Anderson started Northern Arizona on a 10-0 run in the first 2:46 of the day. While Jacksonville's Tanner Rubio connected on three straight 3s to give the Dolphins their own 9-0 run, Northern Arizona took control of the game with nine minutes left in the first half.
While the Dolphins put together their own 19-5 run to take a 19-15 lead with 11:20 left on the clock, the Lumberjacks' defense went on to shut down the home team.
Holding Jacksonville scoreless for 8:09, Northern Arizona went on a 15-0 run, with Anderson scoring five points while Isaiah Thomas and Chris Bowling added four apiece.
The Dolphins missed eight field goals and committed seven turnovers during the scoreless run, which finally came to an end on a jumper by J.D. Notae.
"It's effort, but its also defensive and offensive execution," Murphy said. "We really made it a purpose to get the ball in the paint, for the drive, the pass and the post-ups. I thought our bigs did a great job finishing. Defensively, I thought the guys were really locked in on scouting reports and knew their assignments and followed through with it."
Playing without two of its top players, Jace Hogan and Devin Harris, the Dolphins were led by Jalyn Hinton's 18 points off the bench. Hogan averaged a team-best 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds entering the day, while Harris added 11.8 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds. Playing without its top two rebounders, Jacksonville ended up losing the battle on the boards 36-30 to Northern Arizona.
Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks didn't need much rebounding in the win, hitting a season-best 60.8 percent from the field with its most points, 83, since an overtime game against Idaho State last February.
Anderson added five rebounds and five assists to his 26 points, with Thomas finishing with 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Bowling scored 10 points off the bench with Lenell Henry adding 11 on 5-of-6 shooting. While Brooks Debisschop finished with just three points and three rebounds after a 13-and-13 night Monday at South Florida, his presence continued to aid the Lumberjacks overall according to Murphy.
"It changes our rotation up front, it allows Isaiah and Corey (Brown) to not have as much pressure on them defensively," Murphy said. "Brooks is kind of like the quarterback of our defense. He is playing the inside and he is involved in a lot of ball screens, he is involved in a lot of handoffs. He is a very intelligent and smart defender, he brings a lot of stability to our ball club on the defensive end."
Leading 35-23 at the break, Northern Arizona could have led by more but still struggled with nine turnovers in the half. However, Anderson worked quickly to add to the lead, scoring five points in the opening two minutes of the half and assisting on a 3 from Gino Littles another minute later.
The Lumberjacks took their biggest lead of the day at 59-36 with 10:41 on the clock. The Dolphins chipped away, trailing by just nine in the closing minutes, but the Lumberjacks' lead never came under threat.
Despite attempting 16 more shots than Northern Arizona, Jacksonville connected on six fewer shots from the field, finishing 25 of 67.
Off for the next week during the holiday, Northern Arizona will host Montana and Montana State on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 to start Big Sky play.
The Grizzlies currently sit at 7-4, with a game at the Washington Huskies set for Friday, and will enter Flagstaff as one of the favorites in the conference. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 28.