Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
JACKSONVILLE — Rarely does a basketball game give you one buzzer-beater, but the Jacksonville State women used two of them to win 76-73 over Tennessee State in overtime Saturday.
After Destiney Elliott hit a layup with just 0.3 on the clock in regulation to take the game to overtime, Taylor Hawks pulled up from about 35 feet to drill a game winner as the buzzer sounded in the extra period.
“It’s a big-time shot,” JSU coach Rick Pietri of Hawks’ buzzer-beater. “They pressed us with 5.9 to go, and it forced us to make a long-range heave, and it was just a big-time shot. When you’re trying to get wins this late in the season, you need players to make big plays for you.”
Hawks, who missed two free throws at the end of regulation that would have tied it, took advantage of Elliott’s late-game heroics to get a chance at redemption. This time she cashed in.
“Missing both of those was big, because if she had made even one, it changes everything,” Pietri said. “She’ll sleep a whole lot easier tonight finishing with that memory instead of the other memory.”
Hawks’ impact wasn’t just felt at the buzzer. The sophomore point guard scored 10 of her 20 total points in the overtime period. Bookending the period with a three to start off JSU’s scoring.
The game-winning shot might be the turning point for a Gamecock season on the brink.
Jacksonville State came into the game at ninth in the standings in a conference that only takes eight teams to its postseason tournament. The Gamecocks are now tied with SIUE and Murray State for the seventh spot, with a game against SIUE still on the schedule for JSU.
What to know
—Elliott, like Hawks, made her impact on the game well before her late heroics. The senior scored just three points in the first half, but came alive for eight points in the third quarter to save a struggling Gamecock offense. Elliott finished with 17 points and tied with Rayven Pearson with five rebounds to lead JSU.
—With the win, the Gamecocks secured their fifth straight victory over Tennessee State. They defeated the Tigers 62-52 on the road earlier this season. The last time TSU beat Pietri’s JSU squad was Jan. 21, 2017, when the Gamecocks fell 64-51 on the road.
—Taylor Roberts had a big night for Tennessee State, keeping pressure on JSU as they made their comeback. Roberts hit five of her six shots in the first half on her way to a game-high 27 points, including the free throws that tied the game before Hawks’ game-winner.
—Pietri on the win: “At this stage of the season, every game you play is enormous. Winning a game like that is huge in terms of catching up to the teams that are ahead of us. You can’t catch them if you don’t win.”
—Pietri on the Hawks shot: “The thing about that kind of a play, is you don’t forget that for the rest of your life. That’s a memory that we’ll have forever. I’m glad for us we got to experience the positive end of that.”
—The Gamecocks continue a three-game home stand Thursday at 5:15 p.m., as Jacksonville State will play Morehead State. JSU will conclude its home schedule for 2018-19 next Saturday when the Gamecocks host Eastern Kentucky on Senior Day.