Logan Arnwine, Staff Sports Reporter
The chase for the NCAA Tournament has officially begun for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
Jacksonville State University (18-11, 12-6 OVC) defeated Tennessee Tech 73-59 Saturday, Feb. 24 in their last game of the regular season, earning the fourth seed in the OVC tournament.
JSU finished the first half off a three by the freshman guard, Taylor Hawks to seal a 14-point lead, 39-25 going into the third quarter. This would be Taylor Hawks’ thirteenth point in the first half alone when on average she scores 8.6 points throughout an entire game.
Tennessee Tech struggled to keep the ball in their own hands, allowing themselves to turn the ball over 11 times in the first half, compared to Jacksonville State’s five.
With 6:18 left in the final quarter, the Golden Eagles cut the lead to seven from a layup by Kentoria Alexander.
As soon as Tennessee Tech seemed to get into a rhythm and ride momentum for a comeback, the Gamecock defense stepped up. For the next 3:15 the Golden Eagles did not score another point thanks to the swarming Gamecock defense protecting the paint and forcing two turnovers.
In that time frame, the Gamecocks built back up a 13-point lead and did not slow down from there. In the final three minutes of their final game of the regular season, Jacksonville State scored on 10 out of 12 free throws to solidify a victory in the opponent’s arena.
The Gamecocks won with balanced scoring by having seven players with at least five points.
Tyler Phelion finished as the team’s leading scorer with a season-high 20 points while also putting up eight boards and two blocks.
Taylor Hawks scored 15 points along with an impactful three steals in 30 minutes of playing time.
The greatest difference between the two teams came in the form of points off turnovers, where the Gamecocks scored 28 points off 21 turnovers, while Tennessee Tech scored just nine points off only 11 turnovers.
The Jacksonville State bench also outscored the Golden Eagles by a total of 14 points, 25-11.
Jacksonville State finishes the season as the fourth-ranked team in the Ohio Valley Conference with a conference record of 12-6, a school record for conference victories since moving to Division I.
In the upcoming OVC tournament, Jacksonville State will play fifth-seeded Morehead State (21-10, 12-6 OVC).
JSU defeated Morehead State in each of their matchups in the season, 70-64 and 65-67, respectively. In both competitions, JSU’s bench outscored Morehead State’s bench by a large margin. Morehead State is coming off a victory against Eastern Kentucky 62-51.
This matchup in the OVC championship tournament will be played Thursday, March 1 at 1:00 p.m. in Evansville, Indiana. It can be watched on ESPN3 or the OVC Digital Network.
The winner will move on to face go the winner of the game between first-seeded Belmont (18-0 OVC) and eighth-ranked Murray State (7-11 OVC).