Stephen Duke, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State men’s basketball team is off to a red-hot start in conference play after an 80-71 win over Eastern Kentucky at the Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., on Saturday, January 4.
The Gamecocks now hold a 7-8 overall record and 2-0 OVC record.
The first half was dominated by Kayne Henry, helping his team to a 13-point lead going into half-time. The junior scored 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting with a couple shots from long range. He finished the night with 14 points.
The Gamecocks entered the second half up 44-31, but saw the Colonels surge back in the second half, eventually tying up the game at 69-69 with just under five minutes to play. However, the Colonels couldn’t overcome their poor shooting average in the first half, where the Coronels only made 37 percent of their shots.
The tied game was broken when Jax State senior Jacara Cross hit back-to-back free throws, which sparked an 11-2 scoring run by the Gamecocks. Derrick Cook also contributed two more free throws to push the lead to five following Cross’s two. The game was sealed when Cross put in three more free throws, along with a layup shot by Cook and Elias Harden to finish off the Colonels.
Cross led his team with 20 points with 14 coming from the second half of the game, and six within just the final five minutes from free throws. Following cross was Kayne Henry and De’Torrion Ware with 14 points each and Derrick Cook with 13 points for the Gamecocks.
“We have good free-throw shooters, but we’ve struggled to hit them up until this point,” said head coach Ray Harper. “For the second game in a row, we basically won the game at the free throw line. My hat is off to those kids because they’ve been in the gym getting shots up. It’s paying dividends.”
Kayne Henry also contributed in the first half of the game with 12 points. He went 4 for 4 shooting and had two three-point shots. He finished the game with 14 points to his name. Cook was the team’s third-leading scorer in the game with 13 points, six assists, and eight rebounds.
The Gamecocks will return home Thursday, January 9, when they take on the Murray State Racers (9-5, 2-0 OVC) at Pete Matthews Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Fans can watch the action on ESPNU or listen to a live play-by-play of the action on 91.9 FM WLJS.