Jacksonville State contained the Racers for the first 26 minutes but a six-minute shooting slump doomed the Gamecocks as they fell to Murray State 73-65 Saturday night.
At basketball media day in October the Gamecocks were the talk of the majority of the conference’s head coaches. Jacksonville State was said to be a sleeper to make the tournament and are proving the coaches right. Entering tonight’s contest the Gamecocks would be the fifth seed in Nashville. Already Jacksonville State own’s tiebreakers over the West Division’s UT Martin, SIUE and Austin Peay, but tonight was an opportunity. Coming off their first win in Clarksville in 10 tries, the Gamecocks were out to prove that last year’s win at McBrayer Arena wasn’t a fluke.
Containing the Racers to half court offense for the majority of the first half, the Gamecocks came out battling on the glass. Jacksonville State jumped out to an early five point lead as guard Avery Moore hit an early 3-pointer. Keeping the Racers in the half court, they were able to run clock and convert.
After the Racers grabbed a 10-9 lead, the Gamecocks used a 10-4 run to gain a five point advantage. After each run by Murray State, Jacksonville State found a way to regain the momentum and push the lead back.
Jacksonville State held an eight point advantage with four minutes remaining but the Racers made a final run to end the first half. The Racers turned to the inside as forwards Jonathan Fairell and Jarvis Williams battled to the free throw line. With the game tied at 30, the Racers followed up a layup by Brian Williams in the closing seconds with a 3-pointer by Dexter Fields to put the Gamecocks behind 33-32. After leading the glass for first ten minutes, the Racers ended the half with a 22-15 glass advantage.
The second half continued with both team trading shots for the first five minutes as the teams shot identically. A foul on Damion Rackley just before the media timeout sparked a small 5-0 run for the Gamecocks. After sinking three free throws, Rackley stole a Racers pass for an easy layup.
Two consecutive turnovers by the Gamecocks fed a 7-0 by the Racers forcing Green to call a timeout down 48-44 seven minutes into the half. The turnovers did more than just give the Racers extra possessions, it allowed them to run.
Down 51-44, the Gamecocks fought back with as Moore scored a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four. With momentum on their side a missed free throw by forward DJ Felder allowed the Racers the chance to run and run they did. Poor transition defense allowed the lane for a Racers’ dunk my guard Jeffery Moss and the crowd came alive forcing JSU to call another timeout.
The Gamecocks had a six minute stretch in the middle of the first half where they didn’t have a field goal. During that time, the Racers missed five shots, during that time period the Racers scored seven points that got the crowd back into the game.
Down by eight, Jacksonville State went on a 10-4 run to get within three with a minute left. A fadeaway jumper by Murray State’s Cameron Payne sealed the Gamecocks fate.
The changing point in the game was the loss of Avery Moore. After sinking his fourth 3-pointer of the night, Moore went down near the Gamecock bench with a cramping issue and was lost for the game’s final 11 minutes. Without their second-best 3-point shooter of season and best of the game, the Gamecocks couldn’t find a hot hand and it led to the six minute shooting slump.
Jacksonville State returns to action on the road against Morehead State next Saturday.