This season, I’ve had one thought about Jacksonville State: fear the defense, not the offense. And for the most part tonight, Jacksonville State held to that very thought. The Gamecocks hold the Racers best scorer to just 3 field goals and 10 points, but another offensive struggle sent Jacksonville State to their 5th loss on the conference season.
“I thought out guys gave us a great effort. I thought Murray State did exactly what they needed to do in order to break the game open.”
Brian Williams led the Gamecocks with 18 points, but shot just 6-19 from the field. Ronnie Boggs was a perfect 5-of-5, finishing with 13 points. After out rebounding the Racers 21-12 in the first half, thanks in part to 7 offensive rebounds, the Gamecocks ended up losing the rebounding battle by 4. Racers big men Ed Daniel and Latraze Mushatt combined for just 2 rebounds in the first half, but 15 in the second, a big reason for the rebounding swing.
Make no mistake…this Jacksonville State defense is legitimate. If only their offense was. It’s something I’ve talked about all season long, and now that I’ve seen it in person, I can safely say this isn’t a problem with the gameplan. It’s not the wrong offense for the personnel. It’s the shooting. From missing layups in transition, to wide open 3-point shots, to air-balling hook shots from 5 feet, if there’s a way the ball can’t go into the basket, Jacksonville State will find a way to make sure it doesn’t.
But their defense, and their ability to shorten the game, can keep them in games, and give them a chance in almost every game they play in. Tonight they had a very simple, yet effective gameplan, to stop the Racers leading scorer Isaish Cannan: keep a man in his face at all time. Ronnie Boggs and Mason Leggett were given that task, and when they were guarding Cannan, they were staring him down the entire time. Didn’t matter where the ball was, or where Cannan was on the court, they made sure they knew where number 3 was at all times. In the first half, they held Murray’s leading scorer to just 1-7 shooting and 4 points.
After the game, head coach James Green said they had the same plan for Donte Poole, who only went 4-7 from the field, but managed to get to the charity stripe, finishing 10-12 from the line. Fouls would be a problem for the Jacksonville State defense for much of the second half, as the Racers were in the bonus with over 14 minutes remaining.
But no matter how good your defense is, your offense has to convert, and that’s one area the Gamecocks simply can’t get out of their own way. Jacksonville State had at a minimum 5 traveling calls, part of the reason they turned the ball over 20 times. When they remembered to dribble, they often did so straight into a Murray defender, leading to a traveling call and another turnover.
The Gamecocks fall to 1-5 in the OVC with the loss, but head coach James Green says his team is staying in games, just can’t get wins.
“There’s not a lot of games, in the big picture in this league, that we haven’t been in a little bit. There’s no reason for us not to be in a game. We haven’t won games, and that’s disappointing.”
So what’s missing?
“One is having Isaiah Cannan on my team,” Green joked.
“Just a little bit tougher,” he added, “the 50-50 plays…understanding how to get to the line when you’re not making shots.”
Up next, the Gamecocks travel to a Austin Peay team finally in the win column in the OVC.