Basketball is often described as a game of runs. Tonight, the Cougars found themselves on the wrong side of one.
After a Kris Davis three with 17:29 to play put SIU Edwardsville up nine, Jacksonville State goes on a 21-2 run over the next six and a half minutes, and never let SIU Edwardsville back into the game down the stretch, denying the Cougars their first conference win of the season.
Jacksonville State held a six point first half lead, thanks in part to a slow start by SIU Edwardsville. But 19 points in the final 7:09 gave the Cougars a three point advantage at the half. During the Jacksonville State second half run, the Cougars went without a field goal for nearly six and a half minutes, until a Michael Messer jump shot put the Cougars within 10 with 8:36 to play. On the next possession, a Jerome Jones three would bring SIU Edwardsville back within nine, but a short 8-2 run spurred by three Brian Williams layups would extend Jacksonville State’s lead, and effectively end the Cougars threat.
Tarvin Gaines, Nick Cook, and Williams all had double-digit second halves, as Jacksonville State shot 57% from the floor in the final 20 minutes. Ronnie Boggs and Darion Rackley were also in double figures for the game, as those five scored all but three of Jacksonville State’s points. The Gamecocks had 12 steals on the night, giving them a 10-0 advantage on fast break points.
A story moving forward for SIU Edwardsville, Maruice Wiltz seen in street clothes before tonight’s game. He’s been suffering concussion symptoms, and could sit the rest of the season. As for the players on the court, Jones led the Cougars with 15 points, and Messer added 14, the only two Cougars in double figures. Mark Yelovich played 26 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points as he continues to recover from injury. SIUE edged Jacksonville State on the boards, but hurt themselves at the free throw line, where they shot just 10-17. (58.8%)
It’s a good win for Jacksonville State, reeling after two home losses. The defensive pressure really was turned up in the second half, as the Gamecocks forced 12 of the Cougars 16 turnovers after the break. Jacksonville State shook up their starting lineup tonight, but it was the traditional five starters that had the biggest impact.
A disappointing loss is becoming the norm for the Cougars, who slip to just 4-9 on the year. The offense played better tonight, but it proved to be the same story: turnovers and defense leading to the loss. SIU Edwardsville has been in all three conference games this season, but has yet to pull out a win in conference play. They continue to heal, and it feels like this team could be poised for a late January or February run, but that’s no guarantee.
SIU Edwardsville’s quest for their first conference win of the year continues Saturday as they host Tennessee Tech. (7-9, 1-3) Jacksonville State looks to keep momentum rolling as they travel to Eastern Illinois. (3-13, 0-4)