Sadie Appleton, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State University women’s basketball team faced off against Murray State and Austin Peay last week at home in Pete Mathew’s Coliseum, snatching a win from the Racers on Thursday, January 9, with a final score of 68-51 but facing a loss against the Lady Govs on Saturday, January 11, with a final score of 57-63.
Jax State began their Ohio Valley Conference home opener in Thursday’s match up against Murray State. For the third straight season, they walked away from the conference home opener with a win – the longest streak since the Gamecocks joined the OVC in 2003. From the starting buzzer, JSU took control of the lead swiftly, thanks in part to a jump shot made by junior Kiana Johnson in the opening minute. Jax State maintained this lead for an impressive 36 minutes.
Down 13-15 after the first quarter, the conference’s fourth ranked Murray State offense came back to grab its only lead of the game at 17-15. Jacksonville State responded quickly with a 12-0 scoring run that would put them back on top. JSU improved to 31-25 at halftime, continuing to 5-0 when leading at the break for the season. The Gamecocks lead steadily grew to 12 following free throws from redshirt-junior Jessie Day and continued to increase up to 14 after points from the wing by junior Jayla Walker.
The Racers made an attempt to stave off a loss by cutting the Gamecocks lead to single digits, but a foul by MSU led to a Jax State conversion, sealing the win for the Gamecocks and improving their record to 6-8 overall and 2-1 for the OVC.
JSU’s defense proved to be a staple in the matchup with Murray State after being held to a 34 percent shooting average while also keeping their opponent below the 55-point mark for the third time this season. Beyond the three-point line, the Racers were only 4 for 21.
Jacksonville State walked away with their ninth win out of the last ten at the Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Notable performances include redshirt-senior Chloe Long who completed her second career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, junior Taylor Hawks led the Gamecock offense with 21 points, and previously mentioned Jessie Day led defensively with a career-high of 10 boards.
Saturday, however, proved to be a rough day for the Gamecocks as they suffered a tough loss to visiting team Austin Peay. It was JSU’s first loss in three games, resulting in APSU’s first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season.
At tip-off, both teams traded points evenly for the first quarter, leaving off with a tie at 14-14. The Lady Govs rolled to a 22-16 lead early after putting up a couple threes. Austin Peay continued this trend, widening the gap to 31-24, their largest lead of the matchup.
A three from redshirt-junior McKenna Lawrence and a pair of free throws from junior Kiana Johnson helped the Gamecocks climb back to within two before half-time, leaving the score at 33-31.
Jax State thundered back after the half with quick scores from Day and sophomore Yamia Johnson, taking the lead away from the Lady Govs and forcing a timeout before a full minute had elapsed in the third quarter. JSU maintain their slim margin until late in the quarter when Destiny Elliott drained a three-point shot, extending the lead to five at 48-43.
Entering the final period, JSU led APSU at 50-47. Unfortunately, a three-minute scoring drought would put the Gamecocks on their heels for the remainder of the game. Back-to-back field goals put Austin Peay up at the six-minute mark with 59-54. Three minutes faded away without scores from either team.
A layup from APSU maintained their lead while inbound passing error lead to another layup for Austin Peay, extending their lead. Missed shots from beyond the line for Jacksonville State and free throws for Austin Peay closed out the game at 63-57. The frustrating loss brings the Gamecocks’ record to 6-9 overall and for the 2-2 OVC.
Jax State’s offense was led by Kiana Johnson with 11 points on her birthday. Following Johnson were juniors Taylor Hawks and Jessie Day who each posted eight points. The Gamecocks utilized the entire roster for this matchup as all ten players contributed to the team’s scoring effort. Redshirt-senior Chloe Long made a mark defensively by etching in a career-high 16 rebounds, reaching double-digits for her third straight game.
“We absolutely have to do a better job of guarding the ball across positions. We also have to make open shots. We had quite a few open opportunities that didn’t go down for us,” said head coach Rick Pietri. “I think our team competed at a high level for the most part. We did have some breakdowns that certainly cost us, particularly in a very close game,” he continues, “Our team defense has improved drastically since the beginning of the season. Hopefully that continues.”
Jacksonville State continues their season on the road in Illinois this weekend in matchups against conference contenders Eastern Illinois on Thursday, January 16 at 5:15 p.m. and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday, January 18 at 1 p.m. Both games can be streamed via ESPN+.