Let’s be honest: Jacksonville State doesn’t have a Montrezl Harrell. The Louisville forward made an early statement for Player of the Year honors with an explosive 30-point performance in Louisville season-opening with against Minnesota.
Given how the Gamecocks struggled to defend Marshall’s size, the Gamecocks are clearly in for quite the challenge.
Without even worrying about the opponent, Jacksonville State’s loss at Marshall opened a few questions about their team: The offense struggled to maintain any momentum throughout the contest, the defense allowed the Thundering Herd to shoot 58% inside the arc, fouls were an issue, and turnovers reared their ugly head.
Avery Moore did provide the Gamecocks with a spark, hitting six three’s on an otherwise rough night for the JSU offense.
Louisville, while impressive in their opener, wasn’t bulletproof. The Cardinals turned the ball over 15 times, and were basically even with the Golden Gophers outside of a 19-2 run. Minnesota didn’t make things any easier on themselves with 19 first half turnovers., sending Louisville to the line 42 times on the night.
Even with Harrell’s production, there were plenty of courts for Louisville’s backcourt. Terry Rozier hit 7-11 from the field, scoring 18 points along with a team-high four assists, while Chris Jones added 13.
There are questions on what to expect from Louisville long-term; The Cardinals are quite a young team, returning just two seniors to go with five sophomores and eight freshmen for their first season in the ACC.
History isn’t the Gamecocks favor either. Louisville has won their last 13 home-openers.
For Jacksonville State to compete, they have to get a better night from their returners. JSU’s two leading returning scorers struggled from the floor; Darion Rackley (1-for-6) and D.J. Felder (2-for-8) went a combined 3-for-14 to score 11 points. The Gamecocks have to rebound, which they did well against Marshall, and have to both get to the free-throw line, and hit better than 41%. It’s an uphill battle, for sure, but JSU needs to respond after a tough start to the year.