Note: this article was updated to reflect accurate scores for Jerrod Tucker and Maurice Mickens.
An exciting ring ceremony, celebrating the 2016 Giants ABA National Championship team, was concluded with an impressive opening game win for the Jacksonville Giants. The Giants knocked off the #9 ranked South Florida Gold, 117-109, in front of an energized group of fans at the Veterans Memorial Arena. New Giants coach Jerry Williams won his head coaching debut in the victory.
“This is a great team win,” said Williams. “The guys did a great job.”
After trailing 58-55 at halftime, the Giants outscored South Florida 38-25 in the third quarter to help clinch the victory. The 38 points in the third quarter was a key turning point in the game. The Giants second half rally was led by point guard Maurice Mickens and forward Jerrod Tucker. Tucker, the team captain, finished the game with 25 points which included 16 points in the third quarter. Mickens had 23 points.
“We just communicated with each other at halftime,” said Tucker. “We didn’t panic and just kept playing.”
Early in the contest, Jacksonville had issues keeping up with the Gold. South Florida jumped out to an early 31-26 lead and at one point led by 12 points late in the second quarter. Rashad Faust had a game-high 31 points for the Gold while Chris Cromartie added 21.
“It took some time for us to settle down since it was our first game,” said Williams. “Eventually we were able to get into a rhythm.”
The Giants conditioning levels played a major role in the win. Jacksonville continued to play with a fast offensive tempo, as the Gold began to fade. The rapid offensive pace was too much for South Florida as Mickens, Jermaine Bell, Tucker, and Ed Horton continued to add points for the Giants.
“Conditioning definitely played a role,” said Tucker. “We work hard at practice. Coach Williams loves having us run 17’s.”
Jacksonville remained in command the entire fourth quarter. Elijah Smith and Bernard Nugent contributed strongly on the defensive side of the ball. Nugent finished the game with four steals while Smith had four blocked shots. Bell and Tucker also contributed with three blocked shots each.
“It was a great win and we will continue to prepare for the remainder of the season,” said Williams.