Kyle Davie, Correspondent
The JSU Men’s basketball team lost at Tennessee Tech on Thursday, February 13 as the Gamecocks watched Tennessee Tech hit the game winning three-point shot with seven seconds left to play that put the eagles over JSU 74-75. This was followed by another tough loss on Sunday, February 15, against Belmont University with a final score of 101-84.
A win seemed secured as the Gamecocks were leading by four points with thirty seconds remaining in the game, but that lead was cut to two after Tech’s Hunter Vick made a layup with 22 seconds to go, then on the ensuing possession, a full-court press pressured the Gamecocks into a travel in the backcourt.
Cade Crossland of the Golden Eagles hit the three-point shot to take the lead and then the Gamecocks had their potential game-winning shot blocked on the other end at the buzzer.
For the most part, the Gamecocks thrived on offense with sophomore guard De’Torrion Ware leading all scorers with 26 points, including five three-pointers, and senior forward Jacara Cross with 16 points and nine rebounds.
The emergence of redshirt freshman Cam Jones was also encouraging as he finished with a career-high in both minutes (28) and points (9) and didn’t miss a single attempt from the three-point line where he was three for three.
The Gamecocks only offensive flaw was the inability to take care of the ball and it led to some of their issues on the defensive end. The Golden Eagles had 27 points off the Gamecocks 20 turnovers, as well as 21 fast break points. The Gamecocks also struggled to guard the shooters of Tennessee Tech for most of the night and they allowed them to go 15 for 32 from deep and shoot 46 percent from the field overall.
“We got the ball, up by two, with two timeouts, but we got in a hurry, got a walk and they banged a three right there,” said head coach Ray Harper. “Unfortunately, that was the last play of the night. That was one of our problems tonight, too many turnovers, and we weren’t good defensively. We didn’t keep the ball in front of us tonight and got beat off the bounce.”
On Saturday, the Gamecocks faced a tough Belmont opponent in a hostile environment and the situation got the best of them. The defensive woes continued for the Gamecocks as they allowed the most points in a single game all season.
The final score was not indicative of the entire game, the Gamecocks kept cutting the lead down, cutting it to single digits multiple times early in the second half, but the Gamecocks could not keep pace consistently and they struggled to put together defensive stops.
Belmont finished with four players scoring double-digits, shot 56 percent from the field and made 20 free throws, never going through a period of the game when they couldn’t score.
Once again, sophomore guard De’Torrion Ware led the team in scoring as he finished with 25 points. Meanwhile, junior guards Elias Harden contributed 13 points followed by Derek St. Hilaire with 10 points respectively.
“We have to find a way to defend better,” said head coach Ray Harper. “That’s the bottom line. I think this trip, in particular, we didn’t defend. Hopefully we can get it corrected because we have four very important games coming up over the next two weeks.”
The losses from the weekend games put the Gamecocks at a 10-17 overall record and 5-9 in conference play. They are currently tied for seventh in the OVC standings. The Gamecocks must put together some wins in these finals two weeks of the regular season if they want to be in the postseason play come March.
After two weeks of being on the road, the Gamecocks will play at home this week against the Southeast Missouri Redhawks at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20. Jax State will then play The University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 22. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+. Fans can also keep up with the action on 91.9 WLJS and 97.9 WVOK.