Stephen Duke, Correspondent
After an emotional win at Pete Mathews Coliseum last Saturday, January 25, against Morehead State, the JSU’s men’s basketball lost back-to-back matchups against Tennessee State on Thursday, January 30 and Belmont on Saturday, February 1, by a combined 24 points. This rounded out a four-game home stretch in which the Gamecocks went 1-3.
In Thursday night’s game against Tennessee State, the Gamecocks were hoping to ride the momentum from the emotional and crucial win against Morehead State. However, the game would not end in the Gamecocks’ favor as the Tiger walked away with the 72-62 win.
The game against the Tigers started out promising for JSU. The Gamecocks began the game strong with a 19-8 lead over Tennessee State with about 10 minutes into the game and eventually went into halftime with a strong 27-point lead over the Tigers.
Coming into the second half, Tennessee State surged out of the locker room with a 6-0 run, and eventually outscored the Gamecocks 44-31 in the second half. The Tigers were led in the second half by Shakem Johnson, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half.
For the Gamecocks, Jacara Cross led his team with 18 points, with Derrick Cook following behind with 13 points. While the Gamecocks forced 18 turnovers, the Tigers significantly out rebounded JSU by a margin of 53-30.
Following the loss against Tennessee State, the Gamecocks welcomed Belmont University to the Pete Mathews Coliseum on Saturday. The Bruins, a top-four team in the OVC, came to Jacksonville and left with a 78-64 win over the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks gave up many turnovers in this game, which led to 39 of Belmont’s 78 points.
The Bruins went into halftime up 37-31, but a 9-1 run beginning around the 18-minute mark put the Gamecocks in front 42-41, giving them an opportunity for a comeback. However, Belmont went on an 18-point scoring run of their own, putting the score at 59-42.
The Gamecocks did not come back from this scoring run and trailed behind for the remainder of the game. The Bruins eventually closed the game out with another win to add to their record. The Gamecocks will get a second chance at the Bruins on the road on February 15.
“Turnovers got us,” said head coach Ray Harper. “We get ourselves back in the game, but then we gave the ball up three or four possessions in a row. Any time you turn the ball over like we do, it makes it difficult.”
Despite the loss, the Gamecocks still had some memorable performances. Senior Jacara Cross scored 25 points, a career high for him. Meanwhile, Kayne Henry contributed 16 points, seven of which came during a four minute stretch in the second half, while Ty Hudson added 13 points for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks will go up against Southeastern Missouri State RedHawks on the road this Thursday, February 6. Tip-off will begin at 7:15 p.m. Fans can stream both games on ESPN+ or listen to the action live on 91.9 WLJS and 97.9 WVOK.