If it’s not the first rule of basketball, it has to be within the top 3: You have to stay true to your play style. Jacksonville State forgot this rule last night, going 3-21 from 3 point range, in a 68-54 loss to Morehead State. And those weren’t simply “desparation” three’s late in the game: The Gamecocks were 0-10 from behind the arc in the first half.
And there’s no reason Jacksonville State shouldn’t have known better. The Gamecocks entered the OVC Tournament 341st in the nation (out of 345 teams) in 3-point shooting, connecting on just 27% over the course of the season. Combine that with one of the stingiest defenses in the league in Morehead State, and you have the recipe for a 14-point loss.
But despite the Gamecocks poor choice in shooting, they stayed in the game for a remarkable amount of time. Morehead State had two second half rallies, including outscoring Jacksonville State 9-2 over the last 1:18, to put away the 7th seed many thought would upset the Eagles.
One likely reason for the second half surge: Drew Kelly. The Eagles forward played only 7 minutes in the first half after picking up 3 fouls, but stayed out of foul trouble…and on the floor in the second half, finishing with 12 points, but it was the freshman Angelo Warner, only getting the start because of the arrest of Lamont Austin leading all scores with 18 points on 4-8 shooting. Surprisingly, the Eagles shot the ball well as a squad against Jacksonville State’s defense, shooting 48% from the field despite just 3-11 shooting behind the arc. But it was their ability to get to the free throw line, and knock down shots, that was the biggest boost, hitting 27 of 35 from the charity stripe.
Brian Williams, who was pivitol in the 2nd half of the Gamecocks opening round win, was held mostly silent, shooting 2-11 from the field (1-8 from 3) finishing with just 5 points. The Gamecocks struggled to hold onto the basketball, turning the ball over 14 times, 10 of which were Morehead State steals.
Is Donnie Tyndall getting enough credit this year? I said this in the game preview for this game, but Morehead State isn’t supposed to be in the OVC semifinals this year. They lost the best player in the OVC, Kenneth Faried, one of the better guard in Demonte Harper, and then lost two more guards during the season: Terrance Hill, to injury, and Austin to bad life decisions. I wasn’t even sure this summer they would be an OVC Tournament team. I’m not even sure Tyndall got enough credit last year, with much of that going to Faried, but Tyndall has done an absolutely amazing, and underrated job this year in Morehead.
No reason Jacksonville State takes a step back next year: Because everyone returns. Seriously, not one player will be lost to graduation. It will be interesting to see what this group can do next year. Of course, I’m pretty sure I said that about UT Martin this time last year too…(please don’t pull a UT Martin, Jacksonville State.)
Whistle Fever: This is the first game of the tournament that saw the dreaded “whistle fever,” where the refs are afflicted with a disease that forces them to call every hand check imaginable. I wasn’t exactly expecting a shootout between these two teams anyway, but the constant barrage of play stoppages did not help make this game any more entertaining.
James Green is entertaining…and was lucky to not be thrown out: If you were following me on Twitter last night, you likely saw me tweet multiple times about Green basically asking to be T’d up. He finally was in the game’s last minute, but watching him work the refs was a thing of sheer beauty. I’m amazed it took them that long. Green doesn’t exactly have a happy disposition to begin with, so watching him truly frustrated is nothing short of amazing. Don’t ever change Green.