Women’s basketball: Owls breeze by Jacksonville 96-79 in home opener

Mohamed Abdihakim

New Owls women’s basketball coach Kellie Lewis-Jay said in the offseason her team would be implementing pressure defense early and often.

So it’s not surprising, FAU’s defense spurred the Owls to a 96-79 win over Jacksonville in Lewis-Jay’s home debut at The Burrow.

“I’m a defensive minded coach,” Lewis-Jay said. “I’m going to look for what you bring defensively in practice.”

FAU forward Chenise Miller had five points, three rebounds and two blocks in the Owls 96-79 victory over Jacksonville. Photo by Max Jackson

FAU (2-1) opted to pressure the back-court on 15 inbounds plays. In one sequence, the Owls pressured on 10 consecutive possessions.

Jacksonville ended the game with 21 turnovers, more than double the total of FAU (9) as a result of the early pressure.

FAU’s top three scorers came off the bench. Freshman guard Morgan Robinson led all Owls’ scorers with 17 points (5-8 on 3-pointers). Owls’ guard Latavia Dempsey added 16 points on 6 for 16 from the field. Redshirt senior guard Breana Turner scored 16 points on 7 for 12 shooting in her return to The Burrow.

Turner was FAU’s leading scorer from 2010-2011 but missed all of last season with an ACL injury. She also added five rebounds, a steal and didn’t turn the ball over once in her 16 minutes of game time.

“I was feeling really good,” Turner said. “In the first half, we had a lot of lapses, but in the second half, we really brought it. We have a lot of stuff to work on. I think we’ll get there.”

Coming into this matchup, Lewis-Jay encouraged Robinson to step up her production. In FAU’s last game, a loss against Bethune Cookman, the freshman guard ended up taking just two shots and didn’t get to the line once in 18 minutes of game time.

“That’s pretty impressive from a freshman,” Lewis-Jay said of Robinson’s bounce back performance. “I told her she’s not bringing anything for [the team] right now, and she responded.”

Senior guard Breana Turner scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds in her first home game since the 2010-2011 season. Turner missed all of last season with an ACL injury. Photo by Max Jackson

FAU won despite shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from the free throw line. Those numbers wouldn’t prove to be decisive, as the Owls defensive pressure proved to be the difference. Seven Jacksonville players ended with two or more turnovers. In contrast, the Owls’ ball movement led to 16 assists. FAU won the game despite struggles from two rotation players.

Guard Kimberly Smith scored  six points on 2 for 6 shooting and forward Chenise Miller (FAU’s leading scorer last season) had five points on 2 for 8 shooting.

However, proving that defense was foremost on FAU’s mind, four Owls’ players had two steals each (Shanequa Schrouder, Takia Brooks, Kimberly Smith and Latavia Dempsey).

The Owls struggled out of the gate and only led 42-37 at halftime. On one first half sequence, Jacksonville snagged three consecutive offensive rebounds. After an uncontested Jacksonville layup, coach Lewis-Jay had seen enough to necessitate calling a timeout.

“We struggled initially. We had a few miscues,” Lewis-Jay said. “But, we scored really well for most of the game. We challenged some people.”

Despite the double-digit victory, Lewis-Jay admits there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We’re not where we want to be in terms of conditioning, we have a long way to go,” Lewis-Jay admitted. “We’re getting there.”

FAU women’s basketball’s next game is on Friday, Nov. 23, at 7:00 p.m. versus the University of Miami in Coral Gables.