Nov. 21, 2005 — Although the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center boasted few fans in the stands Sunday night, day three of the Paradise Jam basketball tournament was still exciting. Fordham Universitys Rams faced off against the University of Georgia Bulldogs, and the Norfolk State Spartans battled Eastern Kentuckys Colonels.
Game one started out at a frantic pace, as Georgias center Dave Bliss quickly put up six points, giving the Bulldogs an early 6-1 lead within the first three minutes of the game. This was followed by a basket by Georgia guard Sundiata Gaines, which extended the Bulldogs lead 8-1 with 17:28 left.
Fordhams coach, furious with his teams poor start, called a time out to regroup his players. The break seemed to work, as Fordham forward Bryan Dunston led the charge to narrow the lead to 8-7 in favor of Georgia.
Bulldogs freshman guard Mike Mercer was called in off the bench and responded by scoring seven quick points, extending Georgias lead 25-19 with 9:11 left in the half. For the remainder of the quarter, a defensive struggle proceeded with both teams causing numerous turnovers. However, only Georgia could take advantage of the errors, playing a full-court, man-to-man press and using the turnovers as an advantage to fuel their fast break opportunities. This allowed Georgia to push the lead to 42-28 with 58 seconds left in the half.
Fordhams Sebastian Greene sunk a straightaway jump shot from the free throw line, making the score 44-30 at the half.
Fordham came out of the locker-room rejuvenated, going on an 11-2 run, cutting the deficit to five and making the score 46-41 in favor of Georgia. The Bulldogs called a quick time out at this point, and Fordhams bench erupted with chants of "defense."
However, it was Georgias defense that tightened up, allowing the team to make several defensive stops. On the offensive end, freshman phenom Mercer hit a three-pointer and then had a put-back on consecutive trips down the court pushing the Bulldogs lead to 56-43 with 11 minutes left to go in the second half.
From that point on, Georgias bench wore down Fordham, with freshman center Rashaad Singleton coming in and scoring two back-to-back dunks and a block with five minutes left in the game. This put the score a t 64-49 in favor of Georgia.
Play started to heat up and get more physical, to the point where tempers peaked when Bulldogs Bliss got a technical foul, causing a scuffle underneath Fordhams basket.
Fordham fouled late, but Georgias clutch free throws allowed the Bulldogs to hold on for a 79-68 win.
Leading scorers for the Bulldogs were Mercer with 20 points and Billy Humphrey with 12. For Fordham, Dunston led with 23 points and 9 rebounds, while Marcus Stout followed 20 points.
In a very exciting second game, the Norfolk State Spartans took on the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
The game started out with Eastern Kentuckys sharp shooter Matt Witt hitting two three-pointers and a jump shot to give the Colonels an early 12-6 lead. The Colonels defense was stifling throughout the entire game and the team never relinquished the lead always doing just enough to keep a comfortable five point advantage over Norfolk State.
The second half was much like the first, with Eastern Kentucky with their tight defense and timely shooting extending the lead to 62-46 with 3:30 left in the game.
Norfolk State seemed like it found its second wind behind freshman guard Keith Young who hit a late three to narrow the deficit 64-53 in favor of Eastern Kentucky. But this was too little, too late, as the Colonels held on for a 67-60 win.
Leading scorers for Eastern Kentucky were Mike Rose with 18 points and Jason McLeash with 17. Norfolk State was led by guard Toney Murphy with 13 points.
The tournament continues Monday with championship games where first, second and third place will be determined. Games are:
— Fordham vs. Norfolk State at 4:30 p.m.
— Georgia vs. Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m.
— Old Dominion vs. Wisconsin at 9:30 p.m.
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