Brian Williams. Clutch.
A pair of Williams free throws with 2.4 second left lifted Jacksonville State to a 65-64 over Murray State, the Gamecocks first ever win in 17 games against the Racers. Williams, who led the Gamecocks with 17 points on the night, was sent to the line after driving to the basket for a potential game winning shot.
The Gamecocks led most of the game, and led by as much as 10 in the second half. But a late surge, and key turnover in the final minute gave Murray State an opportunity to win, as Brandon Garrett hit a jumper in the paint with nine seconds remaining to give the Racers their first lead since the midway point of the first half.
Williams high pressure free throws from just a 58% free throw shooter ended nine years of futility against the Racers.
As we’ve come to see often this season, Murray State struggled throughout much of the first half. After building an early six point lead, the Racers would give up 12 unanswered points over a four and a half minute stretch.
Jacksonville State shot just 40% from the field, getting all but 8 points from the quartet of Williams, Ronnie Boggs, Tarvin Gains, and Mason Leggett. The Gamecocks committed 11 turnovers, and went to the free throw line for 30 attempts, but would hit just 20.
Murray State suffered even worse at the charity stripe, hitting just 14-23 (60.9%) on the night. Isaiah Canaan scored a game high 20 points, but struggled from behind the arc, hitting just 20%. The Racers as a team struggled with the deep shots, hitting just 22% from 3-point range. Stacy Wilson added 16 points on an efficient 6-11 shooting from the field, and Ed Daniel tallied yet another double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 17 rebounds.
Jacksonville State arguably hasn’t had a high quality win in OVC play, until topping the West Division leader tonight. The Gamecocks rode the same rollercoaster as many of Murray State’s previous opponents, but were better able to limit the Racers effectiveness in the second half, holding the Racers to 45% shooting after the break.
Murray State fans had to know their team was playing with fire as of late, consistently needing second half runs to overcome opponents, and likely saw a loss like this eventually happened. The Racers defense was solid again tonight, but when Canaan isn’t making shots, the Racers struggle to find other ways to score. Daniel sat key minutes during the second half as he got into foul trouble yet again, an issue that persists game after game. Despite all of that, they were still in the game in the final minute, just simply fell short on the road.
It’s short week for Murray State, who only host rival Austin Peay (5-17, 1-7) on Saturday. Same for Jacksonville State who host resurgent Morehead State (11-11, 5-3) next Saturday.