01182017-wb-belmont-36
JSU’s Briana Benson looks to pass in a game against Belmont on January 18, 2016. Benson scored a game-high 21 points in a victory over Tennessee Tech on Saturday. (Katy Nowak/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Staff Reporter

The Jacksonville State Women’s basketball team finished off their 2016-17 home schedule on a high note with two consecutive Ohio Valley Conference victories in the last two games of the year inside Pete Mathews Coliseum to stay alive in the OVC tournament chase.

The Gamecocks needed both wins to stay in the hunt for an OVC tournament berth, and they got them, as they took down Tennessee Tech 57-44 on Saturday in JSU’s Senior Day game, then overcame a 14-point deficit to Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday night to win 71-61.

Senior Briana Benson’s stellar showing on Saturday guided JSU to their victory over Tennessee Tech.

Benson, along with fellow seniors Kelly Naughton and Lacey Buchanon, were honored on the court prior to tipoff as a part of JSU’s Senior Day festivities.

The game remained tight for the first quarter, but Benson broke a second quarter 16-16 tie by scoring the final nine points of the quarter by herself to push the Gamecocks to a 25-16 halftime lead.

After scoring 15 first half points, Benson chipped in another six in the final period to finish with 21 and help stave off a late TTU run.

The Golden Eagles cut the JSU lead to 7 midway through the fourth, but some timely baskets from Benson and Gretchen Morrison kept them at bay, and JSU secured a 57-44 victory.

Benson, a native of Jonesboro, Ga., will finish her career as the all-time leader in made 3-pointers for Jacksonville State, as she now has a school-record 209 made triples in her career, which is also good for tenth on the all-time OVC list.

In Wednesday’s victory over Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State dug themselves into a 12-point halftime hole with a frigid, 28.6 shooting percentage in the opening two quarters.

However, the Gamecocks caught fire in the second half, upping their percentage to 43.8% and scoring 24 points in each of the final two frames after putting up just 23 in the entire first half.

JSU locked down on defense too, and the Gamecocks outscored the Colonels 48-26 in the second half to take control over the contest.

Morrison gave Jacksonville State for good on a 3-pointer with 8:02 remaining, and JSU eventually took the final home game of the year by a score of 71-61.

Lacey Buchanon, whose hometown is Jacksonville, led the Gamecocks with 19 points in her final game in Pete Mathews Coliseum, and Tyler “Cocoa” Phelion recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards.

Jacksonville State needed the two victories to stay alive, but the team hasn’t yet secured an OVC berth.

JSU still needs a victory in their regular season finale, a road contest Saturday against Morehead State, in order to remain in contention.

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