Jacksonville State (8-17, 4-6 OVC) fell to Tennessee State (15-6, 6-2 OVC) in the headliner of Saturday’s double-header in ‘The Pete.’
The Gamecocks were without leaders Christian Cunningham and Malcolm Drunwright on Saturday night, and were never able to settle into a groove.
Tennessee State quickly shot out to a four-point lead over Jax State. JSU fought back, and a couple of free throws by Jeremy Watson put the Gamecocks up by two, 6-4, only 3:15 into the contest. This would be the only lead Jacksonville State could claim during the contest.
A little over a minute later, not only had the Tigers tied, but they had retaken the lead on a jump shot by Keron DeShields, 8-6.
The Gamecocks kept it close, however. After they were down by as many as five points, they were able to hold Tennessee State and pull within one point of the Tigers, 11-10.
Tennessee State tried to pull back away from the home team, but JSU was able to keep the contest within an arms reach, constantly looking for an edge to help push them back on top.
In a constant battle, Jax State once again found themselves down by six points with around six minutes left in the first half. Once again, the persistent Gamecocks clawed their way within one point of the Tigers, 24-23, for the second time of the contest with 4:21 left in the half.
The Tigers were finding their mojo, and did not dance with the Gamecocks long before they found themselves with an 11-point advantage over JSU, 38-27.
A late layup by Erik Durham brought Tennessee State’s lead back down to nine before the teams hit the locker rooms for halftime.
The Tigers came out of the locker room with nothing on their mind but finishing the game. They looked well-rested and seemed to have adopted a nothing-but-business mindset. Tennessee State shot to a 17-point advantage over Jacksonville State before they were allowed to score.
A couple of good free throws by Durham broke the 30-point mark for the Gamecocks. Now only trailing by 15, it was time for JSU to get to work and show the sparse crowd at Pete Mathews Coliseum one of the late comebacks they have proved they know how to accomplish.
Delfincko Bogan looked as though he was the piece the Gamecocks needed to give the Tigers a good run for their money.
The Tigers had other plans. They decided to flex their muscles, shut down Bogan and truly pull away from JSU. Not even five minutes into the second half, Tennessee State broke the 20-point lead mark, 51-21, when Xavier Richards was able to make a layup.
Jacksonville State would bring the lead under 20 points several times during the rest of the contest, but were never able to get the lead under 16 points.
The Tigers fought the entire 40 minutes of the game, and never backed down to the Gamecocks. They held on to beat Jacksonville State by 25, 78-53.
Watson had 11 points, 1-1 from beyond the arc, was 4-4 in free throws and was able to grab eight rebounds. Andre Statam had seven points, 1-2 in three point field goals and got two defensive rebounds. Durham had seven points, 1-7 in three-points and was 2-2 in free throws. Bogan led JSU with 13 points and went 2-5 from three-point land. Jared Hamilton and Greg Tucker were both 2-2 in free throws. Tucker was able to grab five rebounds, while Hamilton got both an offensive and defensive rebound.
The Gamecocks remain home to face the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on Saturday Feb. 6, at 4:30 p.m.