Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor
In a two game road-trip in Illinois, the Gamecocks basketball squad managed to take one game to remain competitive in the OVC standings.
Jacksonville State (17-8, 8-4 OVC) came back to take down Eastern Illinois 75-56 Feb. 1 before coming up short on another comeback attempt Saturday, Feb. 3 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 75-67.
In both road contests in The Prairie State, the Gamecocks fell behind by double digits in the first half, facing deficits of 10 and 17 against EIU and SIUE respectively.
Against EIU, the deficit didn’t last long.
After a 12-0 run by the Panthers made the score 18-8 halfway through the first, the Gamecocks outscored EIU 21-11 for the remainder of the half to take the lead 31-29 at the break.
Jax State took control immediately in the second half, scoring the first 11 points of the period and cruising to a 19-point win.
Christian Cunningham put up 12 points and 10 rebounds to tally his second straight double-double, and Jason Burnell led the Gamecocks with 17 points against EIU.
Saturday against SIUE, Jacksonville State came out flat again.
The Cougars scored the first six points of the game, then quickly built up a double-digit lead.
Jacksonville State trailed 33-16 at the 5:37 mark, before the offense finally came alive to get the Gamecocks back into the game. JSU outscored the Cougars 14-6 the rest of the half, cutting the deficit to eight at the break and making the score 38-30.
Contributing to the Gamecocks’ struggles in the first was the quiet play of senior guard Malcolm Drumwright.
Drumwright scored just two points in the opening period, making just one of his three shot attempts.
Jamall Gregory and Cam Martin led JSU with seven in the first half, and four straight points from Martin helped to key the Gamecock turnaround.
Jax State cut the SIUE lead to as little as three in the second half, but the Cougars were able to stretch the lead back out and keep the Gamecocks at arm’s length the rest of the way, taking the game 75-67.
Gregory led JSU scorers with 14, and Norbertas Giga and Jason Burnell both chipped in with 12. Burnell also added 10 rebounds to tally his first double-double in a Gamecock uniform.
Jacksonville State now returns to Pete Mathews Coliseum for a two-game home stand.
The Gamecocks take on Tennessee Tech Thursday, Feb. 8 for an 8 p.m. tipoff that is set to air on national TV on ESPNU.
Then, JSU hosts Tennessee State on Feb. 10 for their penultimate home game of the season.
The Gamecocks’ final home contest will be Thursday, Feb. 22 against OVC leader Belmont.